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?