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.
Let’s have conversations to find a way to bridge this gap between privacy and reasonable accommodation, not just for our coworkers but also for our clientele.
When library school ideals, professional ethics and the reality of managing a school library collide: the author describes how her students are being surveilled when searching for information on school-issued devices and argues that those who have taken an oath to preserve privacy and uphold intellectual freedom, must continue to ask as many questions as possible when administrators collect sensitive student data and offer to help write policies that both protect rights and support safe schools.
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?
Technology and digital data have made it easier to provide personalized online experiences. But people are often surprised to discover how much privacy they trade for those personalized experiences. How do libraries find that balance between customer service and privacy?