Calling Users in a Pandemic: Best Practices to Protect Privacy

As so much of life has been ‘closed down’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many libraries have begun to reach out to their users directly over the phone. These calls, sometimes referred to as wellness checks, come from our professional tradition of service and a genuine concern for the well-being of the users we have come to know so well and care for so deeply. This desire for checking in on our users can come into conflict with our ethical charge to protect user privacy and confidentiality regarding library use. Before jumping into action, take time to think about the purpose of the calls and how they will be done. The guidelines below were developed to help libraries consider if, and how, staff can make calls to users.

Virtual Programming and Patron Privacy

As libraries continue adjusting services and moving toward more virtual programming options, we’ve often found more questions than answers. As we experiment, share, and grow together, we’ll continue improving how we interact with and touch our communities, even if our physical spaces are inaccessible. It’s important that as we do so, we don’t overlook a critical piece of library services: patron privacy and security.

Terms and Conditions Do Apply

In almost every library or educational organization in which I have been involved there has been an explicit acquiescence to the inevitable intrusion of ed-tech into our students’ lives. We have to resist and demand that technology meets our educational and community values, rather than the other way round.