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
Date Written: 2014
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
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