Guidelines on Contact Tracing, Health Checks, and Library Users’ Privacy

The right to privacy is one of the foundations upon which our libraries are built. Privacy is one of the key reasons libraries are such a trusted part of every community. In a world that thrives on surveillance and data mining, libraries provide a safe place for users of all ages to seek out information free from unreasonable intrusion into or surveillance of their use. As libraries across the world have shut their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we face the challenge of upholding our commitment to not monitor, track, or profile an individual’s library use beyond our operational needs.

The Privacy Perils of Contact Tracing in Libraries

As communities struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries are faced with the decision to institute contact tracing, monitoring who comes into the library and restricting access to those who don’t provide their personal information. Libraries should only perform contact tracing when mandated by public health or local officials. If your library is required to perform contact tracing there are specific ways that you can go about it that minimize the risks 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.