Wireless access has returned to the Ottumwa Public Library, though staff have updated policies enabling them to limit access if necessary.

After some library patrons were found to be illegally downloading movies using the free wireless Internet, the library was cited by its provider, Mediacom, prompting staff to temporarily shut off Wi-Fi access.

The library receives its Internet for free through Mediacom and has provided it to the public for the last five years.

The wireless and public computer policies were updated at the Library Board of Trustees meeting Monday night.

“We have since turned back on our wireless,” said OPL Director Sonja Ferrell. “The only change in the public computer policy is that we added language preventing illegal downloads. In the wireless policy, we have the ability, if need be, to limit it with a password.”

But library staff won’t necessarily take all the actions it’s allowed right now, Ferrell said, though they gave staff “more mechanisms to immediately implement something if a problem arises.”

Ron Houk, assistant library director, said the library is not imposing a password right now in order to keep Internet access “as open to the public as possible.”

“It would make a lot more difficulties for everyone else who are not doing anything wrong,” Houk said. “We’re trying not to penalize the users who are using it in the appropriate way.”

While he wasn’t sure exactly how far access to the library’s Wi-Fi reached beyond the physical walls, he said he has seen people using the service in the library’s parking lot.

“We want to allow people the most access possible, but we’re trying to do our best to balance that access with preventing illegal downloading as well,” Ferrell said.

The illegal downloading was done on a personal computer and not during library hours, Ferrell said, meaning someone accessed the Wi-Fi outside of the physical building.

“We just wanted to address the policy so it gives us rights as a staff to be able to adjust as need be, but we aren’t limiting access right now,” Ferrell said.

Patrons can access the Wi-Fi on their personal computers without a library card. However, users must have a library card to access the library’s public computers.

Patrons can use a library public computer for 60 minutes per day, which can be divided into more than one session.

The library does not filter the content of wireless Internet access, though the policy asks patrons to not access “pornographic websites or those that demean individuals or groups.”

The updated policy also reflects the recent illegal downloading incident: “Computers may not be used for any illegal purposes, including illegal downloading of any software, movies or music, etc.”

The policy also states that the library “reserves the right to terminate a wireless Internet session at any time and will only make access available during business hours.”

Any patron who uses the Wi-Fi to violate library policy, local, state or federal laws will have his or her Wi-Fi privileges revoked.


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