Internet Filtering: Are We Making Any Progress?

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. We’ll be posting at least one article a day between now and April 15. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns.

Competency 2: Ethical Principles and Professional Norms

“Internet Filtering: Are We Making Any Progress?” by Helen R. Adams. School Library Connection, April 2016.

Congress approved the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in 2000 with the best possible motives—protecting children and young adults using the “wild west” Web. Unfortunately, the legislation is misinterpreted by many school districts and has created the unintended consequence of choking off access to valuable educational resources for students and teachers.

What’s the Current Filtering Situation in Schools?

Fifteen years after CIPA’s implementation, the filters in many districts continue to be overly restrictive and block far beyond the requirements of shielding against visual images that are obscene, contain child pornography, or material harmful to minors as defined by federal law (FCC). The law does not require that districts filter text, audio, social media, or interactive web tools, although filtering software routinely bars access to these resources. To compound the problem, many schools make unblocking of mislabeled, but legitimate, websites a lengthy process. Continue reading “Internet Filtering: Are We Making Any Progress?”

Defend Students’ Intellectual Freedom

adams1This month at School Library Connection, we’ve been focusing on all the ways our school libraries serve as incubators for our democracy. But creating a space that nurtures our “citizens-in-training” is about more than just our instruction, it’s also about ensuring students’ free access to resources representing diverse points of view. Giving students the opportunities they need to practice civic skills goes hand in hand with defending students’ intellectual freedom as we train the future leaders of our world.

In this sneak peek from her Intellectual Freedom workshop, Helen Adams gives a basic overview of how and why you should be an advocate for intellectual freedom at your school. Subscribers can access the entire workshop here, where you’ll also find practical step-by-step guidance on selection policies, navigating through challenges to materials, and protecting students’ intellectual freedom online.


Helen R. Adams, MLS, is an online instructor for Antioch University-Seattle in the areas of intellectual freedom, privacy, and copyright. She formerly worked as a school librarian in Wisconsin, and served as president of AASL. She is a member of the ALA American Libraries Advisory Committee, the ALA Privacy Subcommittee, and the AASL Knowledge Quest Advisory Board, and she is the author of Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library (Libraries Unlimited 2013).

How Do You Prepare for Challenges to Books and Other Resources?

Maria Cahill starts off the new year at School Library Connection with the results of her One-Question Survey asking about material challenges.

We encourage you to use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here. And don’t forget to take our latest One-Question Survey, open until 8/24/16, by clicking here.

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“Intellectual freedom is a core value of the library profession, and a basic right in our democratic society” (American Library Association (ALA), n.d.). In response to the latest One Question Survey, slightly more than 200 school librarians provided information about their practices in relation to intellectual freedom. As the chart demonstrates, the large majority of school librarians who select materials based on local policies have had no material challenges. The chart also illustrates that slightly more than 11% of school librarians engage in self-censorship by consciously selecting materials to avoid challenges, and approximately one-fifth have had a material challenge. Continue reading “How Do You Prepare for Challenges to Books and Other Resources?”