Choose Privacy presentations for NY libraries

Office for Intellectual Freedom, Privacy

Greetings from Saratoga Springs, New York. No ponies at this time of year (except there are mounted police!), but the town is full of racetrack-related images, statues, bars, and museums. Still a great walking town with a Victorian flavor. I spoke at the Saratoga Springs Public Library, a contemporary building, right in the midst of the downtown energy, where the parking lot is always full! When I was an Union College’s library in Schenectady, I remember that this new library raised eyebrows when it incorporated a cafe! Last night I spoke at the brand new Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, NY. At 5 pm that beautiful new building was bustling–people of all ages on the computers, a packed children’s room, still colorful with picture book covers on open shelves. Crandall has an Adirondack Folklife Center, with books, toys, rocking chairs–all types of regional arts and crafts. There were at least three programs going on last night–including a blues band I was competing with! Crandall is going to do a National Issues Forum very soon, so we talked quite a bit about deliberative democracy and the sorry state of the civic discourse in the U.S. right now.

My program was sponsored by the Southern Adirondack Library System (SALS). It was titled:  “PRIVACY RIGHTS IN A DIGITAL AGE: The Role of Libraries in a “Peep Culture.” I began the program with a discussion of ways we choose to give up some of our personal privacy when we buy highway toll passes, or grocery store discount cards–or when we go on Facebook. I then spoke about how libraries can model best practices in terms of privacy protections. Finally I showcased ALA’s Choose Privacy Week initiative–please log on!

I always learn more from the audience than I give them.  Here’s what I have learned:

  1. Why didn’t I think of this?  The U.S. Census is happening right now, and several librarians mentioned that some in their communities are worried about invasion of privacy. The audience was worried that giving a privacy program in the midst of census anxiety might make people reluctant to participate in the census. I clicked on the national census web page and there is a very strong pro-privacy statement there. You might want to use it. I am going to incorporate it into my presentation.
  2. Librarians are still extremely worried about giving young children access to the Internet and, in particular, to social networking sites. I offered several suggestions and reassurance (“education, not censorship”) and told the audience to call OIF if they have concerns. As always, the audience of practicing librarians had great tried and true examples of Internet safety programming.
  3. Cyberbullying is a HUGE topic out there right now. If anyone has examples of good programming around this issue, we would love to hear from you.
  4. It is great to have non-librarians show up. A computer engineer community member and I were waiting outside before the library opened, and he decided to attend and gave all sorts of information in non-geek language and we were very appreciative!
  5. Here is a great example of the “double-edged sword” of privacy. Those who had a Price Chopper grocery store discount card, got phone calls when the meat they bought was recalled for bacteia contamination. Does this creep you out, or are you glad to get this phone call?
  6. But my favorite tidbit was a librarian worried that one of her staff at the Circ Desk was asked, at time of check-out, whether the library had any books about John Adams and was told to watch Glenn Beck! This points out the importance of letting staff know to refer users to a librarian who might suggest a wide variety of sources!

Thanks for reading.  I’m going to blog about all my talks.

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