Libraries, Electronic Resources, and Privacy: The Case for Positive Intellectual Freedom

Library Quarterly 84(2) (April 2014):183-208

31 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2013 Last revised: 15 Nov 2014

Alan Rubel

University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Library and Information Studies; University of Wisconsin, Madison - Program in Legal Studies

Date Written: September 3, 2013

Abstract

Public and research libraries have long provided resources in electronic formats, and the tension between providing electronic resources and patron privacy is widely recognized. But assessing trade-offs between privacy and access to electronic resources remains difficult. One reason is a conceptual problem regarding intellectual freedom. Traditionally, the LIS literature has plausibly understood privacy as a facet of intellectual freedom. However, while certain types of electronic resource use may diminish patron privacy, thereby diminishing intellectual freedom, the opportunities created by such resources also appear liberty-enhancing. Adjudicating between privacy loss and enhanced opportunities on intellectual freedom grounds must therefore provide an account of intellectual freedom capable of addressing both privacy and opportunity. I will argue that intellectual freedom is a form of positive freedom, where a person’s freedom is a function of the quality of her agency. Using this view as the lodestar, I articulate several principles for assessing adoption of electronic resources and privacy protections.

Keywords: privacy, intellectual freedom, positive freedom, library, electronic books

Suggested Citation

Rubel, Alan, Libraries, Electronic Resources, and Privacy: The Case for Positive Intellectual Freedom (September 3, 2013). Library Quarterly 84(2) (April 2014):183-208. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2320163

Alan P. Rubel (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin, Madison - School of Library and Information Studies ( email )

4217 HC WHite
600 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

University of Wisconsin, Madison - Program in Legal Studies ( email )

4217 HC WHite
600 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

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