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Loughborough University

School of Business and Economics

News and events

17 Sep 2014

Calls for more transparency with regard to filtering software at libraries


‌MAIPLE is a two-year Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project investigating how public libraries are managing access to the internet for their users.

An acronym for Managing Access to the Internet in Public LibrariEs, MAIPLE is led by Dr Louise Cooke at the School of Business and Economics. Now in its second year, the team has recently finished analysing collected data from a large-scale survey that went out last year to all Public Library Services across the UK and in-depth case studies carried out with five services.

MAIPLE’s main focus is on the maintenance of ‘acceptable’ use, and what kinds of content restrictions – such as the use of filtering and blocking software – are being applied. The project is near completion and is expected to report its research results and recommendations at the end of September 2014.

In order to test the appropriateness of the project’s final recommendations to practitioners and policy makers, an end-of-project workshop was held on July 10th 2014, to which a range of heads of service were invited, alongside key policy makers from bodies such as Arts Council England (which holds overall responsibility for public library services in England).

Principal Investigator Dr Louise Cooke said:

“The workshop was hugely successful and we were privileged to welcome back Professor Anne Goulding, a former staff member at the University, who gave an excellent keynote presentation, entitled ‘Managing Access to the Internet in Public Libraries: From Community Access to Connection and Co-creation’.

“The conclusions of the project were not quite as anticipated at the start: we had expected to see librarians coming out strongly against the use of any filtering and blocking software, but our field work has led us to the conclusion that this is a ‘necessary evil’ in some instances, and one that cannot be avoided altogether.”

The Team’s Recommendations:
The research team’s recommendations have focussed on good practice in the use of such tools, particularly with regard to transparency and awareness-raising, and have emphasised the importance of educating users, young and old alike, on how to stay safe online.

Dr Louise Cooke“Needless to say,” said Louise, “when discussing such a difficult and sensitive issue, the discussions at the workshop were lively and, at times, even heated, particularly when it came to the closing panel debate.

“The outcomes from the workshop have been very positive: not only were our recommendations accepted fully, but Arts Council England have expressed the desire to work with us, co-ordinating all relevant organisations in the field, to develop them into a set of national guidelines that will inform practice in this area.”

Proving to be extremely topical, Louise’s research has led her to being invited to speak as part of a panel at the recent International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) in Lyons, France discussing ‘mass internet surveillance and what libraries can do’.

“The panel consisted of representatives from activist organisations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as Marco Pancini from Google, and played out to a full house” said Cooke. “It was interesting to note that, in line with the MAIPLE findings, transparency was a recurring theme in the discussion. There was recognition of the need in certain circumstances for government surveillance but this should be proportionate and there should be transparency with regard to how much surveillance takes place and on what basis”.

Louise has also just recently been invited to participate in the up-coming E-Safety Forum, being held in London later this month.

Note to the editor:

  1. MAIPLE is a research project in the Centre for Information Management at the School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University. For more information about the MAIPLE project, please contact the PI Dr Louise Cooke (l.cooke@lboro.ac.uk) or visit the website http://www.lboro.ac.uk/microsites/infosci/lisu/maiple/about-us.html. You can also follow MAIPLE on Twitter: @maipleproject
  2. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) is the leading international body representing the interests of library and information services and their users. It is the global voice of the library and information profession. 


To contact our Publicity Team, please email Ondine Barry on o.barry@lboro.ac.uk or call +44 (0)1509 228849.

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