May 27, 2014

Read A Banned Book at the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out at ALA’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas, NV

Banned Books Video Read-Out

What do To Kill a Mockingbird, The Call of the Wild, and The Grapes of Wrath, have in common? Though they are all critical literary representations of our history, each of these texts has been banned or challenged because of their compelling and provocative depictions of real life. Show your support of these and thousands of other banned books – such as the Diary of Anne Frank, Where the Wild Things Are, and the Harry Potter series – by reading an excerpt from your favorite banned book at ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

On Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29, from 9am to 5pm, SAGE and ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom invite you to the Banned Books Readout Booth, where you can read a short passage from your favorite banned book and then speak from the heart about why that book matters to you. Readings will be video recorded and will be featured on the Banned Books Week YouTube channel during Banned Books Week, September 21-27, 2014. The booth will be located at the entrance to the exhibit hall (look out for a red carpet and cameras). We strongly encourage you to bring your own copy of the book, but some books will be available for your reading. RSVP now to make an appointment and avoid waiting in line.

Not sure which book to choose? Check out the list of most challenged titles of 2013, the list of Banned Books that Shaped America, or other frequently challenged books.

**Go the extra mile! If after reading from the book, you don’t mind parting with it, we encourage you to leave it on our donation shelves. All contributed books will be given to local libraries and learning institutions.

For more information, please contact Camille Gamboa, PR and public affairs manager at SAGE Publications, Inc. (camille.gamboa@sagepub.com) and  Nanette Perez, program officer at ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (nperez@ala.org).

 

May 27, 2014

LHRT statement on “Speaking About ‘The Speaker’” co-sponsorship

In response to some questions about the upcoming “Speaking About The Speaker at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference, the Library History Round Table Executive Committee has made this statement about their decision to co-sponsor the program:

LHRT Executive Committee Statement re. OIF The Speaker Conference Program

The Library History Round Table (LHRT)’s decision to co-sponsor the Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF)’s conference program on The Speaker has met with consternation from some members of ALA Council and the Social Responsibility Round Table (SRRT). Since no one from Council or SRRT has contacted LHRT officers to discuss their concerns, the LHRT Executive Committee has authorized OIF to publish this statement on its blog, which all concerned parties may access.

Today, ALA positions itself as a champion of civil liberties and diversity. For example, in the past decade Council has passed resolutions in support of immigrant rights (Midwinter 2007), same-sex marriage (Annual 2009), and universal health care (Annual 2009). Yet the association and some of its leaders were not always at the forefront of human rights advocacy. Decades of tortuous debate were sometimes required in order for ALA to evolve toward the ideals that seem so natural to us now. Nowhere is this truer than in the cases of intellectual freedom and race relations.

The Speaker and the controversy it caused are nearly forty years old. Yet we face some of the same issues today. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are nearly one thousand hate groups operating in the United States. They request meeting rooms in libraries and other public spaces, including a Ku Klux Klan rally planned last year at Gettysburg National Military Park.  The intended purpose of The Speaker was to invite librarians to examine the limits of their own commitment to intellectual freedom. Such an exercise remains worthwhile.

More importantly, LHRT is concerned that the rising generation of librarians has little inkling of the struggle of African Americans and other persons of color to be welcomed, heard, and respected with our profession. For example, many are unaware of Melvil Dewey’s anti-Semitism; ALA’s acquiescence to “local custom” when holding conferences in segregated cities; and yes, the fierce debate between the Intellectual Freedom Committee and the Black Caucus regarding the production and screening of The Speaker. In criticizing the program, one Council member stated that there is no point to showing a film which “so few of the current members of ALA were even involved with.” LHRT’s position is just the opposite—that we must expose and educate members about these matters precisely because many of today’s librarians have no knowledge of them. LHRT respects colleagues who remember The Speaker as an ugly chapter in ALA’s past. Yet they are not the only constituency to be considered. LHRT passionately believes that each generation has the right—and the obligation—to learn about such events and make sense of them on their own. Those who were children or even unborn in 1977 deserve the opportunity to see and learn about The Speaker, and use it to strengthen their professional philosophy and practice.

In co-sponsoring a panel discussion about The Speaker, LHRT does not seek to garner attendees through “sensationalism,” “stir up unnecessary controversy,” or “reopen old wounds” as has been charged. Our membership includes retirees and several former presidents of ALA who may have painful memories of those days. We care fervently about inclusiveness. During the planning stage, we requested that OIF invite former LHRT chair Mark McCallon, who has undertaken rigorous scholarly research on the topic, to join the panel in hopes that he would introduce the audience to the disputes surrounding the film. The involvement of the Black Caucus heartens us as well. We are confident that the OIF has assembled a panel that will raise awareness of at least some of The Speaker’s complexities. We hope that attendees will bring questions to the event and share their personal reflections. We shall continue to support ALA’s efforts to offer programs that critically examine the profession’s history.

This past week, a historic court decision in Pennsylvania reminded us that simply because an activity “causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional.”[1] In a similar vein, LHRT believes that The Speaker and other artifacts of ALA’s history, however agonizing, deserve to be known and discussed.

Bernadette A. Lear

LHRT Chair, 2013-2014

BAL19@psu.edu

 

Endorsed unanimously by the Library History Round Table Executive Committee:

Dominique Daniel, Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect

Ellen Pozzi, Secretary-Treasurer

Julia Skinner, Member-at-Large

Cindy Welch, Member-at-Large

Mark McCallon, Past-Chair

Eric Novotny, Incoming Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect

Nancy Dupree, Incoming Secretary-Treasurer-Elect

Suzanne Stauffer, Incoming Member-at-Large



[1] Hon. John E. Jones, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Whitewood v. Wolf, Memorandum Opinion, May 20, 2014, pg. 38. See http://www.aclupa.org/files/8714/0061/1059/WHITEWOOD_OPINION.pdf.

May 26, 2014

IFAction News Roundup, May 18-24, 2014

The Office for Intellectual Freedom sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more. Click here to subscribe to this list. For an archive of all list postings since 1996, visit the IF Action archive. Below is a sample of articles from May 18 – May 24, 2014.

 

Filtering, Censorship, Whistle blowing, Free Press, and Free Speech Articles  

[Colleges] Paralyzed by the ‘Heckler’s Veto’

A Media Shield Law That Wouldn’t Protect Glenn Greenwald Is Not A Media Shield Law; It’s A Joke

Twitter Agrees to Block ‘Blasphemous’ Tweets in Pakistan

Free App Lets the Next Snowden Send Big Files Securely and Anonymously

Speech groups alarmed by sex trafficking bill

 

Access, the Digital Divide, Net Neutrality, and Intellectual Property Protection Articles 

The Open Internet and the Digital Divide

Should Revealing Fracking’s Chemicals Be A Crime?

Welcoming a New Voice in Copyright Reform – The Authors Alliance

Metropolitan Museum Of Art [NY] Claims Copyright Over Massive Trove Of Public Domain Works

Get a Read on This: Libraries Bridging the Digital Divide

 

Privacy, Surveillance, Hacking, and Cybersecurity Articles    

Surveillance, libraries and information manipulation

U.S. Indictment of Chinese Hackers Could Be Awkward for the NSA

NSA to test legal limits on surveillance if USA Freedom Act becomes law

Some Privacy, Please? Facebook, Under Pressure, Gets the Message

Chinese Government Bans Windows 8 From Its Machines

May 22, 2014

Viewing and speaking about “The Speaker” at ALA Annual Conference

How can understanding past conflicts inform our ability to understand current issues?   How should libraries and librarians grapple with uncomfortable history, unpopular ideas, and inflammatory speakers and programs in the 21st century?

To help us deal with those questions, the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee and the Association of American Publishers will present a program on the controversial ALA-produced 1977 film “The Speaker … A Film About Freedom” at the 2014 Annual Conference in Las Vegas.  In addition, there will be two screenings of the film prior to the program as part of the “Now Showing at ALA” film series. The program, “Speaking about ‘The Speaker,’” is co-sponsored by the Black Caucus of the ALA and the Library History Round Table. For additional information about the program, read the press release.

In addition to the screenings, OIF has posted the film online for the first time, thanks to the ALA Archives at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  It can be viewed on YouTube.  Additionally, the 1977 Discussion Guide that was included with the film is available as a PDF on the ALA Conference Scheduler. Also posted are several pages from the American Libraries July/August 1977 cover story that provide an excellent overview of the Detroit conference.

The program will take place from 1 – 2:30 p.m. on Monday, June 30, in room N253 of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC).  The film screenings will be at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 29, and at 8 a.m. on Monday, June 30, in LVCC room N242.  Both screenings will be followed by a moderated audience discussion.

In advance of the program, we will be posting additional thoughts and resources here on OIF Blog about the historical context of the film, why IFC and OIF thought it important to have this discussion in 2014, and to address other concerns that have been voiced since the program’s conception.  We welcome your voices in the comments and on your blogs or other social media outlets.

OIF is well aware of the hard feelings – and even pain – the film and its controversy brought to many members of the association. It’s our belief that a thoughtful reflection of the film and the controversy by those who were there, as well as those who have  studied and otherwise considered the issues, can help ALA members, particularly those who are newer members, as we continue to discuss often difficult issues within the association.

May 20, 2014

IFAction News Roundup, May 11-17, 2014

The Office for Intellectual Freedom sponsors IFAction, an email list for those who would like updated information on news affecting intellectual freedom, censorship, privacy, access to information, and more. Click here to subscribe to this list. For an archive of all list postings since 1996, visit the IF Action archive. Below is a sample of articles from May 11 – May 17, 2014.

 

Filtering, Censorship, Whistle blowing, Free Press, and Free Speech Articles  

USC Upstate closes gender studies center that booked lesbian play 

Here’s how not to get sued when reviewing online products

Right to be forgotten vs. free speech

Greenwald On NSA Leaks: ‘We’ve Erred On The Side Of Excess Caution’

Edward Snowden’s Other Motive for Leaking

 

Access, the Digital Divide, Net Neutrality, and Intellectual Property Protection Articles 

Getting libraries ready for the election season

Liberal backlash threatens plan for Internet ‘fast lanes’ 

Net neutrality protesters are literally camped outside the FCC. And the agency is hearing them out.

Why the death of net neutrality would be a disaster for libraries

Tablets proliferate in nation’s classrooms, and take a swipe at the status quo

 

Privacy, Surveillance, Hacking, and Cybersecurity Articles    

European Court Lets Users Erase Records on Web

Fake Peoria [IL] mayor Twitter account prompts real raid of West Bluff house

[California] Judge denies Gmail search warrant

‘Frontline’ Doc Explores How Sept. 11 Created Today’s NSA

H.R. 3361, USA FREEDOM Act

May 7, 2014

Choose Privacy Week 2014: Privacy Issues for Incarcerated Youth

by Kelly Czarnecki
Teen Librarian
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

We might not think too often about privacy issues in regards to the incarcerated. Why should they be online anyway? In most cases, they’re not. However, in some places they are. In my experience for instance, I have provided outreach as a public Librarian to juvenile offenders and we have been able to access the Internet for various purposes. While there is of course the initial hurdle of getting staff on board and structures in place for the incarcerated to access the Internet period, this post will focus on privacy issues once they are able to be online which hopefully goes to say it is possible, and these are some things to consider while figuring out what content could be a part of their experience.

While most of us that work in libraries encourage youth to practice safe habits on the Internet, being incarcerated adds another level. While where they are at is obviously a very big part of their life, it’s important we ask ourselves our responsibility in protecting their privacy from them being associated with being in jail or prison.

For example, in 2012, I helped facilitate a content creation program that was funded by the MacArthur Foundation, where juvenile offenders were able to access various sites online for the purpose of authoring information and interacting with one another as well as teens in another state who were also incarcerated. They used Voice Thread to learn how to leave constructive comments on a post one of their peers in the group uploaded. All of which are very useful skills to have if someone has never experienced this before. One of the programs we used was Bitstrips Comics. With each site, the teens were encouraged to create content based on a choice they had to make-preferably nothing that had anything to do with why they were incarcerated. When working with Bitstrips, one of the teens, aged 18, decided to illustrate what he did to get himself arrested. As librarians, we felt it was our responsibility to have a conversation with him regarding his privacy, as he was pretrial. He felt he wanted to keep the post live and wanted the content to stay.

In another program, I worked with youthful offenders to add content to a podcast called Turn it Up Teen Radio in 2014. The teens reported on the topic of bullying. The librarian at the jail asked that the recorded voices of the teens be disguised. Since there are voice effects for Garageband, they were able to choose their preference and read their researched piece from there.

Sometimes we might not think that those who are incarcerated deserve privacy online or even have that as a concern on our radar of them being content creators. When we think of it in terms of what skills they are building that are useful for future employment or other exploration, and understand that there are ways to protect their privacy for when they are no longer incarcerated, it makes sense to help find the best way to do so.

Kelly Czarnecki, Teen Librarian for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, 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.

 

May 5, 2014

Choose Privacy Week 2014: Just Another Hysterical Librarian for Freedom

by Nancy Kranich
Rutgers School of Communication and Information
Past President, American Library Association

Are librarians hysterical about protecting user privacy, as Attorney General John Ashcroft contended in 2003? That was the question asked when LIS students at Rutgers University heard from two librarians on the front lines defending and promoting intellectual freedom since the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001. The colloquium entitled Libraries, Privacy, and National Security featured George Christian, the plaintiff in John Doe v. Gonzales who was served a National Security Letter (NSL) in 2005 that demanded patron records from the Library Connection in Connecticut, and Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of the coalition OpenTheGovernment.org, an organization that shines a light on surveillance transparency.

Both colloquium speakers were instrumental in changing the discourse and moving public opinion and policy toward more openness and privacy protection. They not only shared their stories, but addressed the central question: where do you draw the line in a democratic society between safety and freedom?

Attendees learned first hand from a librarian who just said NO to an FBI fishing expedition that demanded records about thousands of innocent readers using his busy library system. They listened to another librarian, a policy negotiator in Washington, who explained why librarians and library users should care about national security issues. Stated one student, “I thought it was interesting that both Christian and McDermott brought up privacy and security as ‘teachable moments.’ Christian discussed how librarians may assume the role of educating a library’s constituents about threats to privacy and Constitutional rights. McDermott referred to the NSA leaks, which created a new public awareness about these issues.”

Ever since the 9-11 attacks, librarians have raised concerns about policy makers’ reactions to the threats. Their concerns initially focused on the USA PATRIOT Act, passed by Congress with virtually no debate. That law, which includes several troubling provisions such as Section 215, grants unprecedented authority to law enforcement agencies to obtain search warrants from a secret court for business records (including educational, library, and bookstore records) without any actual proof or even reasonable suspicion of terrorist activity. Although the word library is not mentioned, this section is often referred to as the “library provision” thanks to the outcry over the possibility of library surveillance. That provision includes a gag order that requires any person or institution served with a warrant to keep secret what transpired. A similar provision, Section 505, permits the use of NSLs to force the instantaneous production of information about targets of investigations without any court order.

What’s the problem with these provisions? First and foremost, they license law enforcement officials to peer into Americans’ most private reading, research, and communications—rights granted under both the 1st Amendment and 4th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They also sweep aside constitutional checks and balances, eliminate probable cause from terrorist investigations, increase potential for abuse, and break down barriers between criminal and intelligence gathering. In addition, they override existing privacy and confidentiality laws, including those in 48 states protecting library records.

In the John Doe v. Gonzales case, Christian (aka John Doe) described the FBI’s fishing expedition that chilled inquiry by innocent library users in his northern Connecticut library system. Moreover, a gag order imposed on Christian and his colleagues kept them from speaking out when debate about renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act denied that search warrants were issued to libraries. One student responded to Christian’s story, stating he is “truly a hero in the eyes of the library world and should be a hero in the eyes of the public. George stood up for all of our privacy rights.”

For more than a decade, ALA has passed resolutions urging Congress to amend the USA PATRIOT Act and related measures, launched the Campaign for Reader Privacy, and joined with other civil liberties groups like OpenTheGovernment.org to advocate reform. Unfortunately, attempts to modify the law have not yet resulted in substantive changes, even though a series of Amendments in 2006 limited impact on libraries thanks to the John Doe case.

During the Bush Administration, Americans learned about a related measure, a warrantless wiretapping program–legalized by Congress in 2008–that expanded powers to monitor domestic communications and listen to international phone calls without specific reasons. Then, in June 2013, Edward Snowden released highly classified information exposing the National Security Agency’s secret bulk collection of metadata about emails and phone calls made by Americans and the tapping of phones of foreign leaders. These measures have finally prompted a reluctant Congress and outraged public to join the “hysterical” library community in calling for change. Commented one MLIS student, “If librarians were worried in 2005, the whistle-blowing of Edward Snowden should be a wake-up call.”

McDermott described changes under consideration by Congress. One, the USA Freedom Act that ALA and other coalition partners have endorsed, would limit surveillance inquiries to a foreign power or agent actually suspected of terrorist activities, require a court order to search for records in bulk data, and create a special privacy advocate for the FISA court.

One Rutgers student, hearing about these developments for the first time, declared, “George Christian taught us a lot last night, he taught us that what he did was not the ordinary and that we need to be cautious of this ever happening to us. He let us know that the only way to succeed is to be educated and prepared. Patrice McDermott did an excellent follow up by making us aware of how unsecure the world is and that it is up to us to protect our privacy.” Stated another, “This colloquium was an excellent reminder that privacy is still a right and is worth defending, both for ourselves and for our patrons.” A third claimed, “there is so much more to libraries and librarians than meets the eye,” followed by another who affirmed, “This is a field that is growing in its involvement and purpose every day, and I am so excited to be a part of this.”

Nancy Kranich teaches at 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 original 2005 edition of the ALA’s Privacy Toolkit.

A video recording of the Rutgers MLIS Colloquium, “Libraries, Privacy, and National Security,” April 23, 2014, is available online , along with background lectures about libraries, privacy and national security prepared by Nancy Kranich (links below):

Video Recording: Rutgers Colloquium: Libraries, Privacy, and National Security, April 23, 2014

Background: Introduction to Libraries and Privacy, Part 1
Background: Introduction to Libraries, National Security and Privacy, Part 2

May 4, 2014

Choose Privacy Week 2014: How to Host Programs about Online Privacy in Your Library

by Mike Robinson
Associate Professor
Consortium Library
University of Alaska – Anchorage

Choose Privacy Week is here and if you are like me, you are just now thinking of ways for your library to participate. The bad news is that it’s probably too late to come up with good programming for this year’s Choose Privacy Week. The good news is that your patrons don’t know or care that its Choose Privacy Week and yet almost all of them have a strong interest in online privacy. What I mean is that the week itself is not important, but the subject matter is of vital importance to our communities and our nation. The continuing revelations about the nature and scope of the NSA surveillance activities has brought concerns about online privacy to the forefront. Libraries are uniquely positioned to offer programming about online privacy because of our strong traditions of intellectual freedom, respect for privacy, digital literacy, and civic engagement. If you ever plan to offer programs on privacy at your library, 2014 is the year to get started.

I have been working with several libraries in Alaska to offer programs about online privacy. We offered two programs so far and are taking what we learned to create a series of programs this year. We were planning to have it coincide with Choose Privacy Week, but had scheduling conflicts with the video conferencing network we are going to use. So instead, our series will happen in June. I would like to share how we got started, what we learned, and what we are planning for this year in the hope that it will inspire you. If we can do it, anyone can.

privacyThe credit for getting the ball rolling and organizing the initial programs goes to Jessie Morgan, the education coordinator at the Haines Borough Public Library. Last October Jessie organized a community event titled Who Do I Trust to Protect My Digital Privacy? Add your voice to the conversation about tough privacy choices facing our nation. The event used the civic engagement materials available on the Choose Privacy Week website. Jessie had recruited two community members as moderators and asked me to attend as a special guest in my role as chair of the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the Alaska Library Association. Haines is a small community in Southeast Alaska about 750 miles from Anchorage where I live, so I attended via the Alaska OWL video conferencing network. I was a bit nervous because this would be my first time speaking in public on an intellectual freedom issue and also my first time using video conference to join a community discussion.

My fears were unfounded. The event went well with lively discussion among the participants. A good portion of the civic engagement materials focused on why online privacy is important. The participants all felt strongly that privacy is important and the discussion quickly moved to what people can do to protect their privacy. During the wrap up of the discussion, it was felt that a program focusing on how to protect your online privacy would be a good next step.

privacy_2privacy3

Life can get busy and we did not get around to scheduling the follow up event until February. Jessie worked with Stacia McGourty at the Anchorage Public Library to put on a joint program between the two libraries. This time the format would be a presentation by me with questions and answers from the participants. I would be at the Anchorage Public Library with a live audience and we would bring in the folks in Haines via video conference. We wanted to be careful to offer information that would empower people and not just make them feel even more helpless because of the number of threats to privacy. Here’s my presentation–Internet & Privacy [1.6mb pdf]. The event went well in that interest was strong and people said that they found the information useful.

But we learned a number of things that we could do better:

  • We did not allow enough time for people to talk about privacy and what it means to them. No one in the Anchorage audience had participated in the previous discussion in October.
  • People really wanted to talk about NSA and Snowden even though there are many other threats to their privacy that they are in a better position do something about.
  • People had a limited understanding of the mechanics of how online tracking and other technologies work. There is a huge need for digital literacy so people can make an informed decisions about their online activities.
  • Don’t assume the generational stereotypes concerning attitudes about privacy are true, i.e. that young people don’t care about their privacy. Everyone regardless of age draws a line at some point between convenience and what should be private.
  • We went too long (90 minutes) and tried to cover too much. Don’t get me wrong, people were engaged the entire 90 minutes but we rushed through some topics and the amount of information was a bit overwhelming.

We also learned a few things about presentations to multiple locations via video conferencing:

  • We had the monitor/camera facing the live audience so the participants could see each other with the presenter to one side, kinda in a triangle. Big mistake, the presenter ends up having to turn back and forth to address both audiences. Instead, we should have placed the monitor/camera so that it is part of the live audience looking at the presenter. You can always briefly turn monitor/camera to introduce audiences to each other at the beginning.
  • Don’t try to show PowerPoint presentation over the video conference monitor. Its a small screen and hard to read. Instead, we should have had handouts for the audience and maybe separate laptop/projector for the presentation at each location.
  • Scheduling multiple libraries is more difficult, especially specific rooms that have the video conferencing equipment and are heavily used.

Despite our mistakes, the feedback from the audience was that they were very interested in more programs on online privacy. With that in mind, we started planning for a series of programs that would allow us to break things into smaller topics and involve different presenters. We will also expand to include one or two more libraries via video conference. We came up with a number of possible topics but eventually settled on a four week series this June:

  • A showing of one of the ALA Privacy videos
  • The NSA & Other Threats to Privacy
  • Internet Browsing & Privacy
  • Social Media & Privacy

We plan to record the three presentations and if they turn out okay, make them available to libraries throughout the state. We may also do a presentation at next year’s statewide library association conference on how to host a program.
So here is my advice to anyone considering hosting programs on online privacy for the first time:

  • Start small, get one focused event under your belt.
  • Use the resources for libraries on the Choose Privacy Week website.
  • Ask for help from other libraries or people/organizations in your community.
  • Incorporate what you learn into planning the next event(s).

I hope that what I have written encourages you to start offering privacy programs at your library. Online privacy is a hot topic and the local library is a great place for people to learn about the topic and discuss the issues.

Mike Robinson is an associate professor and head of systems for the 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 2, 2014

Choose Privacy Week 2014: Kids Deserve Privacy Too!

by Heather Acerro
Head of Youth Services,
Rochester Public Library, MN

It is so basic that it doesn’t seem worth talking about, but kids deserve privacy too. Your library has a privacy policy in place, which is compliant with all applicable laws, and I am sure that you follow it. You don’t go around telling your neighbors what the kids across the street are checking out. You don’t give out addresses and phone numbers of your storytime participants to whomever may ask. Of course you don’t. But do kids have the privacy they deserve?

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.

May 1, 2014

Choose Privacy Week 2014: Privacy All Year Long with the New ALA Privacy Tool Kit

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:

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.

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