Computer, Internet, and Wireless Use Policies

The library maintains access to the Internet as an electronic tool for customers and staff to locate information. As a matter of policy grounded in the First Amendment and existing law, the library affirms the right of individuals to have access to constitutionally protected material.

Rules for Computer and Internet Use

To maximize the availability of limited resources and to ensure fair access to all, customers are expected to follow the library's rules. Violation of these rules may result in loss of web access or library privileges. Library staff has full authority to enforce these policies and procedures as well as policies related to general behavior in the library.

  • Public computers in the libraries shut down ten minutes before closing.
  • Customers whose library card accounts are blocked because they owe $25 or more in fees will be able to use the libraries' computers but not laptops. Read more about paying fees.
  • Customers whose library cards have expired will not be able to use the libraries' computers. To renew a library card account, all fees must be paid.
  • The time limits on Internet/Word/Excel/PowerPoint computers are:
    • 60 minutes per session and unlimited minutes total per day on Children’s Room computers;
    • 15 minutes on an Express computers; and
    • 120 minutes per session and unlimited minutes total per day on adult computers.
  • There is no time limit on the use of the catalog/database computers, unless a customer monopolizes the machine to the point where other customers are unable to access it.
  • Customers must have their library card number and PIN to use the Internet, Word, Excel, or PowerPoint or to print from any PC. For cardholders who do not have their cards with them but have appropriate identification, staff will look up and provide their card numbers.
  • If a staff member suspects that a computer user is using another customer’s card without permission, the staff member may approach the computer user and ask for the name of the person who granted permission to use the card. The card owner may be contacted to ensure permission has been granted.
  • People who want to use MCPL computers, but do not have a library account, can be issued an Internet Card. An Internet Card is good for one year. It can only be used to log onto MCPL's public computers.
  • Customers using workstations should not interfere with or disrupt other users. The equipment must be shared and used in a manner that respects the rights of others. Library staff has full authority to manage the use of equipment to achieve these ends. Users must relinquish computers if a staff member asks them to do so.
  • Equipment and software must be used as installed. Customers must not reconfigure the workstations, load new software, or run their own software.
  • Customers use library computers at their own risk.
  • Customers may bring their own headphones to use with library computers.
  • Under State Law, it is a misdemeanor to damage the equipment in any way: " ... a person may not unlawfully take, detain, mutilate, injure or disfigure books ... or any property of any library." (Annotated Code of Maryland 23-408)
  • Customers are expected to be considerate of others when viewing Internet materials. Staff will intervene to ensure compliance with State law: " ... a county library shall ... Adopt and implement policies and procedures to prevent minors from obtaining access through the library, by means of the Internet, the World Wide Web, Usenet, or any other interactive computer service to materials that are obscene or constitute child pornography ..." (Annotated Code of Maryland, Education 23-506.1) Many children are in the library, and may see materials on computer screens being used by others. Under some circumstances, so that the library can comply with Maryland law, customers may be required to use a privacy screen.
  • If staff believes that a customer is printing, downloading, e-mailing or otherwise distributing child pornography, the police will be called to investigate.
  • Users are responsible for compliance with all copyright notices and restrictions attached to web content as well as all applicable state and federal laws.
  • Computers in children's areas are for children's use only. No one over 12 years may use these computers for any purpose unless they are a parent/guardian/caregiver accompanying a child.
  • Branch staff have full authority to designate certain computers for specific purposes (for ex. e-mail only, library catalog only, health information only, etc.) in order to manage access to limited resources. These designations may change from day to day or even hour to hour depending on user needs.
  • To book specific workstations:
    • Customers who would like to ensure that they are assigned to a computer with assistive technology can choose the "ADA" or "ATW" queue when signing up to use a public computer at the library.
    • Children, ages 12 and under, will first be assigned to a PC in the Children's Room by the session management software. If all PC's in the Children's Room are in use, the child will be assigned to a PC in the Adult area. If a child wishes to use a Children's Room computer instead of the assigned Adult one, the child must make this request to an Information Desk staff member, who will place that child next in the waiting list for a Children's Room PC.

Wireless Use

Wi-Fi is available at all branches.

No special encryption settings, user names, or passwords are required.

You may experience fluctuating bandwidth on the libraries' public wireless, depending upon how many people are using the wireless connection and what they are downloading.  Streaming video and some online games consume large amounts of bandwidth. Some areas of our library buildings may not be close enough to a wireless router and may have lower signals and slower speeds.

  • The library is not responsible for the privacy of information you transfer over our network.
  • You are responsible for ensuring that your computer has security protection against viruses and other malware. You use the library's wireless network at your own risk.
  • The library assumes no responsibility for damage, theft, or loss of a customer’s equipment, software, data files or other personal property brought into or used at the library's facilities.
  • Library staff is not able to provide technical assistance. You are responsible for your own equipment. The library does not take responsibility for any changes you make to your computer's settings and cannot make any guarantee about the compatibility of your equipment with the library's network.
  • There is no guarantee that you will have wireless access at any library branch at any specific time or with any specific equipment. Service disruptions may occur, and some equipment may not be compatible.
  • The library does not guarantee that you will have access to every Internet site using the Wi-Fi connection.

Restrictions, Filtering, and Privacy

MCPL reserves the right to block certain ports and protocols over the library network. Customers may receive a message that an activity is blocked and peer-to-peer applications will not work.

The following are restricted categories and protocols:

  • illegal content
  • spyware/phishing
  • SMTP [Port 25]
  • P2P file sharing

Filtering for adult content will be activated on any public computer when a child 12 or under logs in with their own library card number and pin.

Customers who wish to filter their Internet searches may use search engines with filtering options, such as Google SafeSearch or Yahoo SafeSearch.

The library cannot be responsible for passersby seeing what websites are being used in the library. Upon request, the library offers privacy screens that limit the ability of people passing by to see what is displayed on workstation screens.

When customers logout at the end of their computer sessions, nothing is saved on the computer's hard drive. The cache of Internet sites visited is cleared automatically. Customers who wish to may also clear the cache themselves prior to logout. The Pharos automated Internet sign-up system purges customer session sign-up records within 36 hours.

For more information about the confidentiality of computer use records, see MCPL's Privacy Policies.


Users may save information from the library computers to their personal flash drives or to free personal accounts on cloud-computing platforms, such as Google Docs or OneDrive. Users may not save to the hard drives of library computers.


  • Printing from all library computers is $.15 cents a page for Black and White and $1.00 a page for Color.
  • Copies and prints are produced only on standard paper contained in MCPL printers. Customers may not introduce their own paper, labels, transparencies, or any other media into the Library’s printers.
  • Circulation records, information about customer accounts, ILL information, and up to three pages of information to answer customer information/reference questions will be printed free by staff at the service desks.
  • Fifteen cents is the minimum that can be added to a customer's session management printing account, and $15.00 is the recommended maximum that can be added. Payments by check must be for at least $1.00. Unused money from a session management printing account will not be refunded.
  • MCPL will issue refunds for photocopies or computer print-outs only if the machine produced a blurred, black, or otherwise unreadable copy or if the machine print-out is torn or wrinkled.
  • Customers should always use Print Preview before sending a print job to make sure that the number of pages is correct, that no blank pages show, and that the text on the page is complete. Printing a blank page or a page with missing text does not constitute a bad copy for refund purposes.

Guidance for Using the Internet

MCPL cannot monitor or control the content of any individual Internet site and assumes responsibility only for the information provided on its own website. Links from the library's web page to any product, service, or information do not constitute an endorsement. With this in mind, please note the following suggestions:

  • Users should evaluate the accuracy, completeness, and currency of Internet sites.
  • Users are cautioned that the Internet is not always secure and that the privacy of credit card transactions and other communications is not assured.
  • Parents/guardians/caregivers are urged to work with their children in the proper use of the Internet and its resources. Children's Internet use is the responsibility of parents, not of library staff. Internet computers in the children's areas of the branches are equipped with filtering software. Filters are an imperfect technology and do not provide a guarantee of complete content screening. MCPL's web pages for kids have links selected for children.
  • Staff members are able to provide users with limited assistance for getting started on the Internet but cannot offer in-depth personal instruction. MCPL offers computer classes and circulates many titles about computers and the Internet.