library has policies. You need them to govern the way things run, to keep
your patrons happy, to keep your world (or your system) from crashing down
one of life's little ironies, though, that everybody needs policies, yet
nobody wants to write them. They can be very sticky little documents, with
a thousand pitfalls awaiting the unsuspecting author. Brave souls who try
to draft these documents can discover that for every sentence they write,
they offend or displease one group or another. Sooner or later, somebody
needs to make the hard calls and decide: Do we believe in this clause enough
to keep it in, even though it will cause our users (and us!) grief? Should
this section be a hard-and-fast rule, or should we allow for exceptions?
Will we fall on the side of the ALA here, or our local constituents? Will
we alert the police or our administrators about pornography viewing, or
will we handle it ourselves?
sure that the old maxim "You can please some of the people some of the
time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time" comes up
a lot when librarians are doing this sort of work.
are all reasons why we thought this would make a different and interesting
theme for Computers in Libraries. Technology has brought you even
more reasons to need policies, and has made it necessary for you to revise
many that were working just fine before, thank you.
glad that, in these pages, we can bring you the stories of how your colleagues
wrote their way around two of today's hottest buttonsInternet filtering
and handling patrons who are viewing offensive material on public-area
computer screens. If you've been avoiding these issues yourselves, take
heart! These authors show that you can walk the fine line between freedom
and safety. Maybe their experiences can help you.
we have one feature about working without policies! You know that they
can really get in the way, and that there are times when you'll never get
something done because of bureaucratic red tape. Well, here's hope! These
librarians started a new technology training position and decided they'd
just let it define itself. They've proved that some things actually can
be unregulated and still work very well.
as always, our faithful columnists jump into the act too. Janet Balas does
her usual great job finding "online treasures" that you can usein this
case, Web sites that are about policies or sites that contain sample policies
for you to study. Donna Stevenson talks about her own experience being
"the Web police." Scott Brandt discusses what he knows best, which is policies
about technology training. (Remember, you don't write guidelines only to
keep people from being bad! Policies should also be part of your strategic
planning.) And Michael Schuyler, this month, chooses simply to be Michael
Schuyler, which is always a treat. Enjoy!
Kathy Dempsey, Editor