Internet and Computer Use Rules & Policies

See also: Internet Use Policy

Computer Use Mission Statement

To fulfill its mission of providing free and equal access to information, knowledge, independent learning and the joy of reading to our diverse community, the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) provides access to the Internet and to personal computers with a variety of software.

Computer Policies

Computer Policies

The Internet and online environment consists of information on a wide range of topics provided by millions of individuals and organizations around the world. Not all information found on the Internet is accurate, complete, up-to-date, legal or philosophically acceptable to all individuals. While SFPL can sometimes suggest Internet sites:

Internet Disclaimer

  • SFPL does not monitor or control the content of the material accessed through the Internet and cannot be held responsible for its contents. (Internet Use Policy 206, paragraph IV)
  • Internet users are responsible for evaluating the accuracy of material found on the Internet
  • In accordance with Ch. 22-C.3 of the San Francisco Administrative Code, Ordinance 206-01, SFPL does not employ filtering software
  • SFPL does not and cannot assume liability for damages from use of Internet information. (Internet Use Policy 206, paragraph IV)
  • SFPL employs antivirus software, but it cannot warrant that its Web site, server, or any other Web site accessed by Internet users is free of viruses or other harmful components.

For further guidance, SFPL collections include Reference and Circulating resources on navigating and evaluating Web sites.


SFPL champions the protection of personal privacy. SFPL will keep confidential all such information that it purposefully or inadvertently collects or maintains to the fullest extent permitted by federal state and local law, including the California Public Records Act, the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance, and the USA PATRIOT Act.

  • The Internet is not a secure medium. Email is not necessarily secure against interception.
  • The Library does not monitor an individual's use of the Internet. Computer search stations are programmed to delete the history of a user's Internet session once the session is ended. The Computer Booking history is deleted every day.
  • Internet computers are provided with privacy screens for your privacy. In accessing various Internet sites, please be conscious of others in your vicinity, particularly children.
  • SFPL does not provide information about patrons' library records, use of other SFPL materials, or use of the Internet to law enforcement officials without an appropriate court order. However, law enforcement officers may take action on their own if they observe illegal activity in plain view. Internet users are reminded that illegal use of the Internet is prohibited by State and Federal laws, and by SFPL policy.

For more information on privacy issues and Internet use, please see SFPL's complete Privacy Policy and Internet Use Policy.

Network Security

For Website security and to ensure that service remains available to all library users, SFPL electronically monitors network traffic to identify unauthorized attempts to upload or change information or otherwise cause damage. Anyone using the SFPL Website expressly consents to such monitoring. Except for the above purposes, or if required by law, no other attempts are made to identify library users or their Web activity.


(Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act) Sections 214-216 of this Act gives law enforcement agencies expanded authority to obtain library records, monitor electronic communications and prohibits libraries and librarians from informing library users of monitoring or information requests. The Library Commission and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have formally opposed the Act, including Sections 214-216, in two separate resolutions. [Resolutions #136-04 and #053-03]. On March 2, 2004, San Francisco voters codified the City's resistance to the federal USA PATRIOT Act with their approval of Proposition E. The charter amendment requires that any request for library, health or other personal records be routed through the Board of Supervisors instead of through City department heads. The supervisors will then decide whether the request is constitutional and whether to respond to it. For more information on the USA PATRIOT Act, please see SFPL's Privacy Policy and USA PATRIOT Act Resolution.

Rules and Responsibilities for the Public

Use of SFPL's equipment for the transmission, dissemination, and/or duplication of information must comply with federal and state laws. SFPL expects all users to comply with such laws, including but not limited to those related to copyright, computer hacking, and child pornography. Computer users will also refrain from any activity that unreasonably interferes with SFPL patron/staff comfort, safety, use or quiet and peaceful enjoyment of the library, including but not limited to:

  • Harassing or threatening Library users or staff.
  • Making any loud or unreasonable noise, or other disturbance, including disruptive use of personal communications or entertainment devices.
  • Vandalizing or abusing computer equipment, including removing privacy screens, tampering with equipment or software.
  • Using the library card number of another person, including a relative, to access the computer system.
  • Hacking into the computer systems.
  • Manipulating SFPL computer systems to override established time limits.
  • Refusing to leave a computer after being suspended from computers, or continuing to create a disturbance while using SFPL equipment.
  • Viewing of any illegal, offensive, or harmful matter1, including but not limited to pornography within any area designated for children or teens.

Additionally, SFPL has the following expectations of computer users:

  • Comply with a Library staff member reasonable request to refrain from or change a disruptive behavior.
  • Comply with Internet etiquette as stated in Guidelines for Library Use and in this document.
  • Refrain from harming SFPL computers or systems through the use of viruses or other malicious acts.
  • Refrain from installing or copying software to SFPL computers.

Persons who violate these Rules and Responsibilities may receive a warning from SFPL staff and/or an opportunity to cease the violation or leave the Library. Illegal activity, as well as any willful or repeated violations of these Rules and Responsibilities or other posted SFPL regulations, may result in removal from the facility and/or suspension of SFPL privileges. Violation of law may result in arrest and prosecution. In addition, where authorized by Federal, State or local law, violations of these Rules and Responsibilities may also result in arrest.

For more information on SFPL Rules and Responsibilities, please see Guidelines for Library Use and Internet Use Policy. For more information on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, visit the United States Copyright Office Web site.

Children and Teens

As with other library materials, restricting a child or teen's access to the Internet is the responsibility of the parent or legal guardian. It is recommended that parents or guardians discuss safe Internet practices with their children. For more information, please see SFPL's Internet Use Policy and the SFPL Kids webpage section: Going Online.

Computer Etiquette

  • While waiting for computer availability, please respect the privacy of the current user.
  • Please do not prevent others from claiming computer reservations or turns at Internet computers either verbally or physically (i.e., sitting at the computer without being logged in).
  • Any question or conflict about computer reservations should be referred to Library staff on duty. You may be asked to submit your library card number to resolve the issue. Our goal is to provide access to all who wish to use the public computers, and we will do everything we can to resolve the situation to everyone's satisfaction.
  • Please keep your belongings with you at all times. The Library is not responsible for loss or damage to personal belongings. Unattended belongings may be picked up by Library staff and removed either to the nearest Reference Desk, or to the Security Office.
  • Please keep all conversation, including cell phone use, at a low volume.
  • Please move to designated areas to talk on your cell phone.
  • Please be courteous to other users by following the Guidelines for Library Use.

Number of Persons Per Computer

Librarians may, at their discretion, limit use of computer terminals to one or two patrons as needed to ensure comfort, safety, use, or quiet and peaceful enjoyment of the Library for all Library users and staff. Patrons may be allowed to work collaboratively, if their behavior causes no disruption.

Disclaimer for Assistance with Patron Mobile Devices (PDF). English | Chinese | Spanish

Related Policies and Guidelines

1 Harmful matter means matter, taken as a whole, which to the average person, applying contemporary statewide standards, appeals to the prurient interest, and is matter which, taken as a whole, depicts or describes in a patently offensive way sexual conduct and which, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors. California Penal Code § 313(a) (2012).