by Heather Acerro
Head of Youth Services,
Rochester Public Library, MN
Privacy is about more than a list of books checked out and access to personal information. Privacy is also about providing a safe space for inquiry, discovery and research. There are so many ways to unwittingly deny kids privacy and mistakes are made all of the time.
Think about the class visit from Ms. Morris’ 28 third graders to the library. Joey’s dad sent him to the library with his library card, $5 and instructions to find out what book was overdue and pay the fines. So the library staffer pulls up his account to see about those fines. 25 of those 28 third graders are behind the staffer looking at the screen, seeing the books on Joey’s account. Or maybe they are not behind her, maybe they are just there around the desk, waiting impatiently behind Joey to ask their questions, and she tells Joey the title. Those kids all heard. Does Joey leave feeling like he can trust the library with his privacy?
Remember that time when Brenda was in fourth grade and she came in asking for books about the human body when Jenny was working the desk? And Jenny said, in her loudest outside voice, “So, you want books about the human body? What exactly are you interested in?” With that transaction, Brenda was cured of asking another reference question.
What about that time that Walt couldn’t find a book for a teen on teen pregnancy so he excused himself to ask his colleague for help and everyone on the Internet computers heard him and turned to see who was asking? That’s not privacy.
Or last week when Bobby’s mom came in looking and the librarian said, “Oh, he’s over there looking for a science project.” Innocent enough, but extraneous information that didn’t need to be broadcasted.
When kids are on the Internet, is a staff person watching what they are doing? Do they walk by to see what is going on? Do they pass judgment on the games they are playing, saying they are “too violent” or “too gross”? That’s not privacy either.
And finally, when the workday is done, or the shift is over, do staff go into the back room and laugh and gossip about what kids asked for, what they were looking at on the Internet, etc.? That doesn’t sound like privacy to me.
In what other ways do we sometimes, unintentionally fail to protect the privacy of kids in our libraries?
Heather Acerro is engaged in building an innovative, dynamic and interactive space for kids & teens to learn, collaborate and create at the Rochester Public Library. She writes reviews for School Library Journal, serves on the board of The Reading Center: Dyslexia Institute of Minnesota and is the current chair of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee.
By Helen Adams and Ann Crewdson
Co-Chairs, ALA-IFC Privacy Subcommittee
After a two year effort, the 2014 ALA Privacy Tool Kit is now available online in time to celebrate Choose Privacy Week. The Tool Kit gives librarians immediate any time/anywhere access to information on our core values of privacy and confidentiality. The revision was completed by the ALA Privacy Subcommittee, consisting of Carolyn Caywood, Barbara Fiehl, Kent Oliver, Dee Venuto and co-chairs Ann Crewdson and Helen Adams. Assisting in the effort were volunteers Bradley Compton, Robert Hubsher, Eldon Ray James, Candace Morgan, and Michael Zimmer.
The first Privacy Tool Kit was created by the American Library Association in 2005 in an effort led by past ALA President Nancy Kranich. Many changes have occurred in the intervening years, most notably the explosion of technology and social media use which has impacted the privacy of users in all types of libraries. Consequently, in 2011 the ALA Privacy Subcommittee, representatives from civil liberties groups, and privacy experts met in Chicago to look at emerging technologies and their potential threat to privacy. One fact became clear: when using next generation technologies, people’s choice of convenience was trumping privacy; yet users did not know or understand the full implications. The group brainstormed various scenarios and projections for the future, and the result is a new Emerging Technologies section in the Privacy Tool Kit. It does not comprehensively list all the available emerging technologies but rather describes those technologies which are most relevant to public, school, academic and special libraries.
What’s new about the 2014 Privacy Tool Kit? The revised Tool Kit has:
- more concise, easier to locate information for quick reference;
- increased visibility of information about library privacy for children and young adults including updated sections on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA);
- a substantial section on the impact of emerging technologies on library users’ privacy;
- the Association of Specialized & Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) Board’s statement affirming the privacy rights for all persons regardless of physical, psychological, intellectual, social, or political condition;
- updated privacy policies for public and academic libraries; and
- new and updated links to privacy resources.
Still to come is a separate document detailing the history of privacy and confidentiality in all types of libraries.
The Privacy Tool Kit joins other ALA privacy resources for librarians including:
- The Choose Privacy Week website
- Questions and Answers on Privacy and Confidentiality
- Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights
- The Choose Privacy Week blogs occurring on May 1-7, 2014
These privacy tools should be of assistance in advocacy and programming not just during Choose Privacy Week but all year long.
In Michael Zimmer’s article “Librarians’ Attitudes Regarding Information and Internet Privacy,” published in the Library Quarterly, Vol. 84: 2014, we learn that concern about government and business data collection practices has “dampened” over time among library workers. And only thirteen percent of the respondents have “hosted or organized information sessions, lectures or other public events related to privacy and surveillance in the past five years.” As domestic drones spread their wings, delivering goods and virtual assistants that track every move a user makes and the potential for further erosion of personal privacy accelerates, we are amused and mesmerized by the possibilities of drones picking up our overdue books. If virtual assistants assess your comfort, gather books of your favorite reading genres and dim the lights, flip them on again, exercise free will and make your own choices. “The future is now”—however it does not have to be dystopian if we remain proactive and vigilant. Privacy is still our legal and natural right.
Helen Adams is a former school librarian in Wisconsin and currently an online instructor for the School Library and Information Technologies program at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania, and a trustee for the Freedom to Read Foundation; Ann Crewdson is a Children’s Specialist at the Issaquah Library, King County Library System, Washington, Chair of the Intellectual Freedom Interest Group for the Washington Library Association, and a member of the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee.
Choose Privacy Week, May 1 – 7, 2014, will feature conversations about protecting privacy rights all year long, both inside and outside the library.
“Librarians are staunch defenders of library users’ privacy, even as new technologies and a growing use of social media and online tools have altered the privacy landscape,” said Barbara Jones, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom. “Acquiring the tools and knowledge necessary to help library users address and cope with an era of nearly unchecked surveillance and data mining is essential preparation for librarians tackling this important task.”
The featured event for the week-long observance is a special webinar, Defense Against the Digital Dark Arts, that will provide advice about protecting personal data from the dark forces online that undermine privacy. Tune in at 2:00 p.m. on May 5, 2014 to learn how online surveillance works, get practical tips on improving privacy on public computers, and gain a better understanding of current legal threats to digital privacy and online anonymity from Eric Stroshane, Field Services Librarian with the North Dakota State Library. Eric is a data privacy enthusiast and intellectual freedom fighter, and has delivered presentations on a wide array of topics at North Dakota State Library workshops, the North Dakota Library Association annual conference, the Mountain Plains Library Association annual conference, and the Library Technology Conference. Eric will be joined by Ann Crewdson and Helen Adams, co-chairs of the ALA-IFC Privacy Subcommittee, who will introduce the revised ALA Privacy Tool Kit that includes new sections on emerging technologies, minors’ privacy rights, and ALA privacy resources and services. [Registration information for the webinar will be posted after April 15th.]
An additional online resource for ALA members observing Choose Privacy Week is Libraries, National Security, and Privacy, an April 23rd Colloquium for MLIS students and others at Rutgers University, that will be videotaped and available for public viewing on the Rutgers School of Communication and Information YouTube channel after April 23. The session will feature George Christian, Executive Director of Library Connection, a Connecticut multi-type library consortium, who helped lead a legal challenge to a National Security Letter requesting library patron records and Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, a Washington-based coalition that fights against government secrecy and shines a light on surveillance transparency.
Choose Privacy Week will also include a week-long online forum at chooseprivacyweek.org that will include guest commentaries by librarians discussing how libraries and librarians can protect library users’ privacy all year round:
- May 1, 2014: “Re-introducing the ALA Privacy Tool Kit,” by Helen Adams and Ann Crewdson, Co-Chairs, ALA-IFC Privacy Subcommittee. Helen Adams is a former school librarian in Wisconsin and currently an online instructor for the School Library and Information Technologies program at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania, and a trustee for the Freedom to Read Foundation; Ann Crewdson is a Children’s Specialist at the Issaquah Library, King County Library System, Washington, Chair of the Intellectual Freedom Interest Group for the Washington Library Association, and a member of the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee.
- May 2, 2014: “Kids Deserve Privacy Too!” by Heather Acerro, Head of Youth Services at Rochester Public Library, MN. Heather is engaged in building an innovative, dynamic and interactive space for kids & teens to learn, collaborate and create at the Rochester Public Library. She writes reviews for School Library Journal, serves on the board of The Reading Center: Dyslexia Institute of Minnesota and is the current chair of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee.
- May 5, 2014: “Privacy Programming for Adults,” by Mike Robinson, associate professor and head of systems, Consortium Library, at the University of Alaska – Anchorage. Mike has worked with technology in libraries for most of his career and has a strong interest in online privacy as a cornerstone of intellectual freedom. He is currently the Chair of the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Alaska Library Association.
- May 6, 2015: “Libraries, National Security, and Privacy Reconsidered in 2014.” Nancy Kranich, MLIS Colloquium faculty convener at Rutgers. Nancy teaches Intellectual Freedom and Information Policy for the Rutgers School of Communication and Information. She is a Past President of ALA, and, as a former Chair of the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, spearheaded the drafting of the ALA’s original Privacy Toolkit.
- May 7, 2014: “Privacy Issues for Incarcerated Youth,” Kelly Czarnecki, Teen Librarian, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Kelly has worked with teens in libraries for over ten years. She was the editor for the gaming column in School Library Journal for many years and is currently the YALSA liaison for the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee.
Now in its fifth year, Choose Privacy Week (May 1-7) is a national public awareness campaign that seeks to deepen public awareness about personal privacy rights and need to insure those rights in an era of pervasive surveillance. Through programming, online education, and special events, libraries will offer individuals opportunities to learn, think critically and make more informed choices about their privacy. The American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom established Choose Privacy Week to help libraries work with their communities in navigating these complicated but vital issues. Privacy has long been a cornerstone of library services in America and a right that librarians defend every day.
For more information on Choose Privacy Week, call or write Deborah Caldwell-Stone in the Office for Intellectual Freedom at 312-280-4224 or email@example.com.