By: Guest Contributor Samantha Lee (posted June 4, 2019 with additional updates)Crossposted from the OIF Blog Libraries deal in providing resources to the public; books – yes, but also DVDs, computer/internet access, research help, 3D printers, early childhood literacy programming,
Our collective future depends on our capacity to get organized. How can we build power in our communities to say no? How can we use our role to teach the public about what’s happening with facial recognition tech and more? It’s in our power to not only envision a better world, but to create it. Let’s take back the future together.
Adult Literacy Services are confidential in California. It is a delicate dance honoring and practicing confidentiality for many reasons. I hope to give some food for thought by sharing three experiences I have had as a tutor-learner (student) coordinator for Solano County Library’s Adult Literacy Program.
Library workers everywhere, whether academic, public, special, or school share a certain pride: the ability to assist anyone who walks through their doors. We take all comers, and we help them in a variety of ways, directly or indirectly. Because young queer users who are questioning or aren’t out may be especially hesitant to approach staff and ask for assistance, below are some things you can do to make sure these users can still find what they’re looking for in your collection without violating their privacy.
“I am using my innocence and the trust upheld by my local librarians as a benchmark for best practices in our current privacy standards. So when the next generation of young and mighty Sapphos-to-Be come out or try and find answers to their unknown, they can do so with as much security, safety, and innocence that I was afforded.”
Librarians always have good intentions when they create a program, but may not be fully weighing the outcomes for patrons. We make some noise about new work to get people in our doors and engage with the public; to show our solidarity with our patrons. But what if drawing attention to the library isn’t the best strategy to protect the privacy of the very people you want to serve? It’s difficult to know the precise answer.A lot of what we might think about in librarianship about privacy is through the lens of what are more traditional library services, conducting personal research on a computer, borrowing materials, signing up for a computer class or using the library catalog, and through the lens of education and privilege. How do we convey library values to our communities when they are vulnerable?
Over a long timeline of interacting with the same people, library workers can start to develop a running knowledge of a large amount of information about the people that come in all the time. Housing status, health, financial wellbeing, personal issues, and so much more that is casually revealed gets added to the growing body of what is known of the user. This is information has privacy concerns attached to it, and the onus of maintaining the user’s privacy lies with every library worker who inadvertently gains details from incidental revelations from library users.
Privacy in libraries isn’t just about safeguarding patron records or internet usage. It’s about making patrons feel welcome when they enter the building, that they know that their pursuits are their own, and that we’re there to assist them without judgment. Privacy matters. Privacy allows us free movement across the intellectual spectrum. It allows us the freedom to pursue whatever topic we find call to us. Privacy gives us the ability to pursue our passions without fear of surveillance or oppression. What can be more liberating and inclusive than that?
Through NYC Digital Safety, more than 1,000 library staff across New York City’s five boroughs have now been trained in digital privacy and security, using published online resources specific to data privacy in the library environment. These resources are available for use by libraries across the country.
Beginning this week, the American Library Association’s “Choose Privacy” website has a new look and a new URL — chooseprivacyeveryday.org — which emphasizes the importance of preserving patron privacy and data security in today’s libraries every day of the year.