Letter on Library Internet Access and Computer Use Policy

April 21, 2009

This letter is in response to San José City Council April 21, 2009, Amended Agenda Item 5.2, "Library Internet Access and Computer Use Policy." My predecessor, Don Kassing, wrote you approximately one year ago to voice San José State University's opposition to Internet filters at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and all branches.

I am writing today to confirm SJSU's position remains unchanged; we oppose any filtering of Internet access at King Library and the branches.

Internet filters will violate the spirit of our joint operating agreement by restricting intellectual freedom. Compromising this core value will seriously erode the spirit of cooperation and mutual understanding underlying the city-university partnership that built King Library.

The SJSU Academic Senate, which represents more than 2,000 faculty members, affirmed that intellectual freedom shall not be infringed at King Library in a November 2007 resolution. The resolution states "San José State University shall continue its long-standing practice of making uncensored access to its materials available to faculty, staff, students, and all citizens of the State of California."

The concept of intellectual freedom is also deeply embedded in the King Library operating agreement. Section 5.4, entitled "Intellectual Freedom," states: "It is the intent of the University and the City to continue to honor the current policy of both the University and City to provide for unrestricted access to all Library Material within the Library Collections and services within the Joint Library for all Members of the General Public and the University Users."

SJSU believes information available on the Internet is Library Material within the Library Collections, given the city and university share the costs of Internet connectivity for King Library and all branches. Note that SJSU students use computers in branch libraries to access the Internet.

The city should confer with the university before amending the Library Internet Access and Computer Use Policy. In May 2008, Library Director Jane Light wrote: "The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library's Operating Agreement, by which the City and the University agree to operate the King Library jointly, addressed the possibility of a future change in City policy, requiring that any changes to the City's Internet access policy could not negatively impact the University's open access policy for its students, faculty, employees, and collections."

While we appreciate changes made to the original proposal, SJSU's opposition remains because any filtering of the Internet will negatively impact open access. The current policy was deliberately written to apply to all patrons; suggested changes would restrict access based on a person's age (minor or adult), location (branch or King) and affiliation (public or SJSU). Also, language for the proposed login page essentially threatens patrons with arrest each time they use library computers, a situation we feel could have a chilling affect on student and faculty research.

Consequently, we believe these proposals must be vetted by the university community, which because of our history of consensual decision making, will require input from administrators, faculty, staff and students. San José State may also need to seek advice from legal counsel to determine if the operating agreement must be amended. Remember, the agreement promises unrestricted access to all Library Materials in the Library Collection, including Internet connectivity.

Make no mistake; public safety is SJSU's top priority. But we believe Internet filtering proposals are misguided. The resources we would spend seeking input from the entire university community and legal counsel, amending the Internet access policy, possibly amending the operating agreement, and then implementing filtering technologies will do little to enhance security at King Library.

Such resources would be better spent on far more effective measures, such as a new security camera system, more security personnel, and more library staff members working and mingling with patrons throughout King Library. I would also like to remind you that the crime rate in King Library is remarkably low. Police responded to two reports of lewd behavior during fiscal year 2007-2008, representing .0003 percent of all computer sessions.

In closing, I quote the Academic Senate resolution, which notes that King Library's "success is demonstrated, in part, by 2.5 million patron visits and 700,000 Internet sessions a year. The great success of the joint library is predicated upon a robust level of cooperation between the city and the university. We invite the city to join us in renewing our commitment to the shared understandings that make the joint library possible."

San José State University is looking forward to working with you on this matter. I have asked Associate Vice President for Public Affairs Larry Carr to help me address your questions or concerns. Please feel free to contact him at 408-924-1166 or larry.carr@sjsu.edu.


Jon Whitmore

Debra Figone, San José City Manager
Jane Light, San José Library Director