Getting Websites Unblocked at Your School

By Doug Johnson, from Chapter 10 of The Indispensable Librarian, 2nd ed.
Reposted from the Blue Skunk Blog under a Creative Commons license

There are few situations more frustrating for a librarian than learning of an Internet resource or tool that would be of value to students but finding it blocked by the district. Here are some strategies for dealing with this problem:

  1. Know and be able to articulate the educational value of the blocked site.
  2. Be able to share examples of how librarians and teachers in other districts are using the resource.
  3. Ask to have the resource provided on a limited basis—for a certain period of time or on specific computers. Report at the end of the test period if any problems were encountered and what uses students made of the resource.
  4. Speak as a member of a group that wants the resource unblocked.
  5. Know exactly who makes the filtering decisions in your district and if there is a formal process for getting a site unblocked.
  6. Understand the abilities of your webfilter, knowing what categories, whitelists, blacklists, and groups are and how they impact the precision with which filtering can be done.
  7. Know local, state, and federal laws pertaining to filtering and student Internet access to avoid “hyper-compliance” by your district.
  8. Communicate in writing your requests and responses when seeking to get a site unblocked. Always copy the supervisor of the decision-maker on all communications.
  9. Seek to establish a formal review process for unblocking Internet resources or seek to have the reconsider policy in your district revised to cover online resources.
  10. File a challenge on the resource to start the due-diligence process on school materials. (Yes, you can do this as a staff member.)
  11. Don’t give up after the first denied request. Come back with other uses, examples, and partners. Sometime the squeaky wheel gets some grease.

Want to read more? The Indispensable Librarian is one of many great titles available in the Wyoming State Library collection. Search our catalog to check out our professional library science materials, or contact Paige Bredenkamp, paige.bredenkamp@wyo.gov or (307) 777-6331, for assistance. 

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