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Towards a public library standard for acceptable use of computing facilities

McMenemy, David (2014) Towards a public library standard for acceptable use of computing facilities. In: IFLA World Library and Information Congress. 80th IFLA General Conference and Assembly, 2014-08-16 - 2014-08-22.

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Acceptable use policies (AUPs) in public library services are important documents. They act both as guides to acceptable use of facilities for library users, and protection for the library service against any abuse or misuse of these facilities. Through their role as quasi-legal documents, they also have the potential to both promote access to the library service, and hinder it. How can we be sure all users understand the implications of an AUP? How can language within them be made easily understood while still offering protection? Such documents are relatively new governance concerns in public libraries, the need for them brought about with the advance of computing and internet facilities in public libraries throughout the 1990s and 2000s. As such there is little in the way of literature or research on their implementation, and only a handful of authors discussing best practice in their design. This paper adds to the general dearth of material on this important topic. Utilising a discourse analysis methodology, the paper compares differences in AUPs in terms of length, content, and tone. Presenting a range of examples from the United Kingdom, this paper highlights the key issues that the profession should be concerned about regarding design of AUPs, and focusses on how language and tone can be a potential barrier to engagement for users. Can a workable document be developed that is shareable across geographic regions? The paper finishes with suggestions as to how we can collectively progress workable AUPs that help the library users understand their responsibilities when using computing facilities, while allowing the library service to feel secure in provision of the service.