Privacy and Library Public Services: Or, I Know What You Read Last Summer

31 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2007 Last revised: 27 Feb 2014

See all articles by Anne Klinefelter

Anne Klinefelter

University of North Carolina School of Law

Date Written: September 2, 2007


Privacy and confidentiality of library use are often at odds with efficiency in and customization of library public services. When librarians make decisions about services and privacy, they should consider strategic approaches to defining and discussing privacy and become familiar with the law of library privacy and their ethical commitment to privacy in library use. A wide range of library services and efficiencies threaten privacy and introduce the potential for secondary uses of personally identifying information collected by the library. Market failure for privacy weakens the value of consumer surveys and consent as substitutes for librarians' choices between privacy and services. Compromises such as those outlined by the American Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee offer reasonable approaches to libraries and librarians struggling with the uncertainties that characterize the challenge of meeting both service and privacy interests.

Keywords: Privacy, Confidentiality, Libraries, Customized Services, Personally Identifying Information, Librarian Ethics

Suggested Citation

Klinefelter, Anne, Privacy and Library Public Services: Or, I Know What You Read Last Summer (September 2, 2007). Legal Reference Services Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 1/2, 2007, Available at SSRN: or

Anne Klinefelter (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

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