In late 1996, the Heartland Library Cooperative began work on the Heartland Automated Library Information Network. One aspect of the project was connecting the HLC Libraries to the Internet through the FIRN, the Florida Information Resource Network. The project was completed by early 1998.

The WAN consists of 8 frame relay circuits and 5 permanent virtual circuits that connect the Sebring Library to each of the other five Cooperative libraries. Sprint/Embarq has maintained the circuits and equipment at the libraries and the central office.

The equipment connect to the WAN equipment consists of one Cisco 3640 router located in Sebring, one Cisco 3620 router located in Wauchula and four Cisco 2600 routers located, one each, in Okeechobee, Arcadia, Avon Park and Lake Placid.

In August 1999, Library Directors from each member county, additional staff members, and a representative of the Florida State Library met to formulate a draft Internet Access Policy. On August 18th, the Heartland Library Cooperative Board met to discuss and adopt a policy.


Charlie Parker began the subject of Internet filtering with hand-outs to explain how various libraries have handled censorship issues. He made the point that the State Library believes that filtering is a local issue, but we need to be aware that lawyers and courts have not yet come to a consensus on the issues. This availability of the Internet to all and the explosion of sites on the Internet have largely taken place within the last three years. Mr. Parker did recommend to the board that we do consult with a lawyer on any policy draft we would pass.

Mary Myers told the board that the best product current available (WebSense) blocks sites, not specific words, and she would recommend that 2 sites specifically be blocked, Sex One and Sex Two. The Highlands County Library Advisory Board has already directed Mrs. Myers to proceed with some type of filter. The board was advised that the librarians would have unfiltered access to the Internet and, if there was a specific need for information from a blocked site, they would be able to print from anywhere on the Net. We want our county commissioners to be aware that the four-county Heartland Library Cooperative libraries are adopting an Internet filtering system based on policies adopted by many libraries statewide.

Ann Ryals moved to accept the Internet policy draft, with a review by Highlands County lawyer Ross Macbeth, effective October 1, 1999. Seconded by Robbie Clarke, and approved by voice vote. – Heartland Library Cooperative Board Minutes, August 1999

In December 1999, all Public Internet Access workstations began to be filtered through Websense. The initial license was for 25 stations. When more stations were added a few months later, the license was increased to 50 stations.

In June 2000, the Sebring Public Library held a grand opening after a major construction project. As part of this project, a new Children’s area was created and a portion of that area was established for computers for children’s use. None of these computers were attached to the Library network and therefore none of them have Internet Access.

In December 2000, The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was enacted. CIPA is a federal law enacted by Congress in December 2000 to address concerns about access to offensive content over the Internet on school and library computers. CIPA imposes certain types of requirements on any school or library that receives funding support for Internet access or internal connections from the “E-rate” program – a program that makes certain technology more affordable for eligible schools and libraries. In early 2001, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued rules implementing CIPA. CIPA contained the following provision:

In General. No funds made available under this Act for a library described in section 213(2)(A) or (B) that does not receive services at discount rates under section 254(h)(6) of the Communications Act of 1934, as added by section 1721 of this Children’s Internet Protection Act, may be used to purchase computers used to access the Internet, or to pay for direct costs associated with accessing the Internet, for such library unless (A) such library- (i) has in place a policy of Internet safety for minors that includes the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are- (I) obscene; (II) child pornography; or (III) harmful to minors; and (ii) is enforcing the operation of such technology protection measure during any use of such computers by minors; and (B) such library- (i) has in place a policy of Internet safety that includes the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are- (I) obscene; or (II) child pornography; and (ii) is enforcing the operation of such technology protection measure during any use of such computers. – Children’s Internet Protection Act

On September 19, 2001, the Heartland Library Cooperative Board discussed the impact of CIPA.


The State Attorney General says FIRN is getting e-rate dollars, and, since we are receiving our Internet access through FIRN, we must adopt a filtering policy. We already have installed filters, have a filtering policy in place, and have given public notice of the adoption of our policy, but Coordinator Myers asked the board to consider adding one line to the policy: “The library used a commercial Internet filter to restrict access to chat rooms.” Elinor moved we adopt the Internet policy with the amendment above added, seconded by Perry, passed by voice vote. – Heartland Library Cooperative Board Minutes, September 2001

In March of 2002, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation challenged the constitutionality of CIPA in Federal Court and won. In June of 2003, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court ruling. The FCC gave libraries a deadline of June 30, 2004 in order to fully comply with CIPA.

In December of 2002, the Websense software license was renewed for an additional three years.

On March 17, 2004, the Board discussed the issue of disabling filters.

Commissioners Resolution to oppose unfunded mandated Internet filtering in libraries. Coordinator Myers spoke to the issue, telling board members that she believed this was a local issue and that we have already installed a filtering device for all cooperative computers. Our filtering policy is on our computers for every patron to agree to before using that machine. The proposed law would threaten us with loss of our State Aid if we are found non-compliant. One of the difficulties in the proposed legislation is the requirement to remove filtering from a specific computer, if requested by a patron. Since the filtering program we have works on a system-wide basis, a request would require technical skills beyond that of our library staff. Hiring a technician for each library would be beyond our budget abilities. – Heartland Library Cooperative Board Minutes, March 2004

Around this time, the vendor the Cooperative uses for library automation software, Polaris Library Systems began to offer a network security product, the Perimeter Security Service (PSS) Firebox.

Unlike with comparable firewall products, you and your library’s staff require no training to gain the full advantages of the PSS Firebox. The PSS Firebox is installed, managed, and maintained remotely by Polaris Library Systems technical support staff. Other products require your IT staff to have knowledge of application ports, communication protocols, and other details of network management. The PSS Firebox is configured and managed remotely, relieving you of these concerns. – Simple, affordable security from Polaris Library Systems

Another benefit that Polaris outlined was that the Firebox could be used to fully comply with CIPA. The Board discussed the issue on May 19, 2004.


Mrs. Myers gave out an updated, corrected statistics sheet for March and April patron visits, patrons, circulation, and collection. She talked about a new spam control program that will be available on the newly installed Firebox. This will block inappropriate URL sites. Myers informed the board that this isn’t being done by mandate, but to be proactive in our protecting our library users.

The board was asked to think about wireless access inside all the libraries for patrons wanting to use their notebooks, PDAs, etc. The thought behind this is to free up the internet computers for those who don’t own laptops, to give extra service to guests, but with the libraries managing the users access, how many people could use it at one time, and how long they can be connected. Coordinator Myers noted that all users would need a library card to access our services. We already have in the works the “smart” cards for Highlands County and, if we decide to charge for Internet access (as Orange County does), that charge could be put on the smart card. – Heartland Library Cooperative Board Minutes, May 2004

The Cooperative Staff was informed, during the planning phase, that any subsequent configuration changes would involve a charge of $500 per incident. The Staff chose to filter all Internet traffic to all workstations using WatchGuard’s WebBlocker.

WebBlocker uses SurfControl® to access an automatically updated database containing over 20 million global sites. Quickly select your web security policy from 54 content-type category filters, including HTTPS. Allow or block access to entire web site categories with the click of a mouse. – WebBlocker: URL Filtering

In June 2004, a technician arrived from Polaris Library Systems in order to install the new networking equipment. The main Sebring router, a Cisco 3400, had served until this time as the link between Sebring and the other 5 libraries as well as FIRN. This router was reprogrammed so that it would connect directly to the Firebox rather to FIRN. The Firebox was put in place and connected to a new Cisco router. This new router, a Cisco 1721, serves to connect to FIRN and provide a conduit for Internet Traffic to reach the Firebox X700.

The Heartland Library Cooperative was fully compliant with CIPA on June 30, 2004 as there was “in place a policy of Internet safety for minors that includes the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers.”

In August 2004, the Sebring Public Library became the first to install the Public Access Management System from 3M. It was installed at the Avon Park Public Library started a few weeks later. Lake Placid Memorial Library began using the system upon re-opening in August of 2005. One feature of the system was that multiple access levels included No, Minimum, Medium and Full. Even though all Internet Traffic was already being filtered through WebBlocker using the same SurfControl database, filtering was enabled on PAMS.

In February 2005, the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners adopted the Highlands County Network Usage Policy. It contains the follow section:

Prohibitions. All users are prohibited from … Excessive use of computer systems, telecommunications facilities, networks, or other resources for frivolous or non-productive purposes as defined by the agency/organizations; – Highlands County Network Usage Policy

In April 2006, the Avon Park Public Library became the last of the Cooperative libraries to offer Wireless Internet Access when the expansion project was completed and the Library reopened.

On October 3rd, 2007, Websense purchased SurfControl, resulting in a merger of the two leading filter database vendors.

With the acquisition of SurfControl, Websense has doubled its customer base to more than 50,000 organizations worldwide and now protects content for more than 42 million employees. The company’s products now include a complete set of content protection solutions, including Web security, e-mail and spam filtering, and information leak prevention, tailored to meet the specific requirements of small, medium and enterprise-sized organizations. – Websense

On February 12th, 2008, with the Firefox X700 having reached end-of-life support status from Watchguard, a Firebox® X Core™ was installed.

In July of 2007, the Cooperative informed by representatives of 3M that support for PAMS would be withdrawn no later than June 2008, the expiration of the current support contract. Multiple vendors were contacted and a number of alternatives were researched. Eventually, PC Reservation from Envisionware was chosen by the Directors. Libraries were transitioned over to PC Reservation in late March and early April of 2008.

On July 21st, 2008, Internet Access was transitioned from FIRN to Comcast Cable Internet Access resulting in greater speeds and usability. There was no change in filtering options as this is still performed by the Firebox.