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?
This year’s theme for Choose Privacy Week (May 1-7, 2019) — “Inclusive Privacy: Closing the Gap” — draws attention to the privacy inequities imposed on vulnerable and historically underrepresented populations and highlights how libraries can close the privacy gap for those who need it most.
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.
We sometimes forget about the data we collect and how we store it. There are many places where we collect data that we may not always think about. We need to be aware of our data storage practices and make it easy for patrons to know how we use & store their data.