I’m a bit tired tonight. It was a bit of a rushed day. I started with a wet, icy walk this morning before work. I started listening to Divergent by Veronica Roth on my walk. I also finished Packing for Mars by Mary Roach. I headed out early this morning to visit the folks at the Hoodsport Timberland Library and talk about our plans for building renovations later this year. After getting back I ended up in a series of other meetings for the rest of the day. Tomorrow is also taken up with meetings and an eye exam. As I’ve aged my eyes have undergone the normal process of fossilization—presbyopia.
A key role played by librarians is the preservation of the privacy of our patrons. It’s a fundamental aspect of librarianship and the protection of intellectual freedom. It’s the focus of Choose Privacy Week. ALA has created Privacy Tool Kit with valuable information. The Library Freedom Project also provides valuable information and advocates for improving the privacy and protections of our patrons.
Although privacy is a core aspect of librarianship, we often fail in a couple areas in regards to privacy and confidentiality. One, when it comes to youth, libraries at times do not follow the recommendations made by ALA and routinely violate the confidentiality of youth. It is not uncommon for libraries to do so, rather than encouraging parents to talk to their children or explaining to the parents what options are available to them. Let me give an example to illustrate this point.
Suppose a young person keeps a diary, it is locked, and the parent is concerned about what this youth might be writing in the diary. The parent might simply talk directly to their child, but rather than doing so, comes to the library and demands that the library staff give them the key to the diary.
What is a librarian to do? Hand over the key (entrusted to the librarian by the child)? Or suggest that the parent is better off speaking to the child?
I’d be happier if the vendors of the integrated library systems created software which allowed anonymous use of libraries and prevented librarian access to anyone’s records. I’ve done some preliminary work on just how such a system might work. After I finish this degree I may pursue that further.
The other thing librarians fail to do in regard to privacy is educate the public on the services we do provide to protect their privacy. Yes, there are ALA initiatives, but on a day-to-day basis, we need to do a better job of training librarian and non-librarian employees to make it clear that this is one of the core services and values of libraries.
And, to make it clear, there is value in privacy even if “you have nothing to hide.” Here’s Glenn Greenwald to talk a bit about that.
A few years ago I bought a book titled Drawing Your Life by Michael Nobbs. In the book Michael Nobbs encourages you to draw, to do one thing each day, and pursue a creative life. That led me to his website where I learned that he was diagnosed with ME/CFS, which put limits on his energy. I have plenty of energy but it is impacted by working full-time and going to school full-time, as well as having a family and pursuing my own creative work. I found Michael’s One Thing Today podcast very helpful as I worked through issues in my own life and figured out what I was doing. I very much enjoy the podcast and encourage anyone looking for some support in their creative efforts, for a gentle, kinder approach, to check it out.