The Panoptic Librarian: The Role of Video Surveillance in the Modern Public Library

Proceedings of the 2014 iConference, pp. 508-21 (2014)

13 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2014 Last revised: 30 Aug 2014

David P. Randall

University of Washington - The Information School

Bryce Clayton Newell

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT)

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

Libraries have long maintained strong protections for patron privacy and intellectual freedom. However, the increasing prevalence of sophisticated surveillance systems in public libraries potentially threatens these core library commitments. This paper presents the findings of a qualitative case study examining why four libraries in the US and the UK installed video surveillance and how they manage these systems to balance safety and privacy. We examine the experience of these libraries, including one that later reversed course and completely removed all of its previously installed systems. We find that the libraries who install surveillance initially do so as either a response to specific incidents of crime or as part of the design of new buildings. Libraries maintain varying policies about whether video footage is protected as part of patron records, about dealing with law enforcement requests for footage, and whether patrons ought to maintain any expectation of privacy while inside libraries.

Keywords: Privacy, Surveillance, Library, Libraries, Ethics, Policy, empirical, qualitative, research

Suggested Citation

Randall, David P. and Newell, Bryce Clayton, The Panoptic Librarian: The Role of Video Surveillance in the Modern Public Library (2014). Proceedings of the 2014 iConference, pp. 508-21 (2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2380203

David P. Randall

University of Washington - The Information School ( email )

Bryce Clayton Newell (Contact Author)

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT) ( email )

P.O.Box 90153
Prof. Cobbenhagenlaan 221
Tilburg, 5037 DB
Netherlands

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