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.

Does student safety take precedence over the freedom to read?: Choose Privacy Week 2019

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.

Humility in Libraries: Finding Balance in Creating Coverage for Immigrants: Choose Privacy Week 2019

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?