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« Technology, school librarians, and the ALA Code of Ethics | Main | Reading incognito »

Getting websites unblocked

I am back working on the revised version of Indispendable Librarian this week and I'll be sharing some things I'd like input on from my brilliant Blue Skunk readers. 

I am working from the Friendship Beach Resort in Phuket, Thailand, a real hardship post as you can see from this picture taken as I started work this morning about 6:30: 

I have two offices: the table and the lounge chair. 

The section below has driven me crazy. I know I've written on this topic before, but I'll be damned if I can find the blog post. I am sure the original was pure genius (as most lost writings are.) Anyway, I'd appreciate knowing any strategies you've used to a website unblocked in your school that I can add to my list. Thanks.

Getting websites unblocked

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. Know local, state, and federal laws pertaining to filtering and student Internet access to avoid “hyper-compliance” by your district.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. File a challenge on the resource to start the due-diligence process on school materials. (Yes, you can do this as a staff member.)
  10. Don’t give up after the first denied request. Come back with other uses, examples, and partners. Sometime the squeaky wheel gets some grease.

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Reader Comments (5)

Not a bad gig Doug. I love the friendship beach resort in Phuket, Thailand. The picture is great. Oh by the way I also appriciate the blog.Good advice especially about not giving up.

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMally Makea

Basically number one covers it, but I would strongly remind readers to tie learner outcomes to standards language that administrators will see and value. Requests should always include the highly vaulted language of standards, but remain focused on the learners.

I would also suggest though that standards language often falls on deaf ears of the ones who control the filter, as more often than not that one is not trained in pedagogy. Rather, address requests to a curriculum supervisor who can "tell" the ones at the control to lighten the filter for the resource that has value. (Of course this is not always true, but it is true in my situation--my network administrator has no training in education whatsoever.)

Saying that, perhaps "research the credentials of the one who decides whether sites ore allowed or blocked to know what path to take in making requests" should be added to the list.

GREAT LIST by the way. I have been fairly successful in getting sites unblocked over the years. The most successful method listed here has been #3 when using Skype in my teaching context.

JEALOUS of the Thailand escape. Of course how can I complain when it's been 80+ all week here during my spring break?

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCathy Jo Nelson

Super list. I am sickened by how little oversight there is with website blocking, and how a lot of time, I have found, that blocking is done on the whim of someone who is not even an educator, but feels a website is a "waste of time" in their opinion.

April 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames O'Hagan

We block by category, and sometimes something worthwhile gets blocked. unless it is a site that we have a specific "rule" about in the schools (facebook) we unblock simply by educator request. Our teachers are professionals and we trust them. If the site catches our attention as being possibly in a gray area, we ask the school principal to make the call. The network person who manages the firewall should not be making educational decisions. In addition, all educators in our district can bypass the filter using a password.

April 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJean Tower

Hi Cathy Jo,

Good additions. I've already revised to incude them!

Hmmmm, 90 in Phuket. Nice here.


Hi Jim,

Yup, it's that "single opinion" we need to guard against - no matter who has it.

Thanks for the note,


Hi Jean,

Your procedures are better than most. As a teacher, could I have Facebook unblocked for my students? Is there a process for having a site unblocked if there is a difference of opinion of its value? Have your blocking and unblocking policies been written down and standardized or is this just "common practice"?


April 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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