Privacy and Competing Library Goals: How Can Library Directors Lead When Values Collide?
in PERSPECTIVES OF ACADEMIC LAW LIBRARY DIRECTORS, (Michelle Wu, ed., Hein/AALL Publication Series #77, 2015)
28 Pages Posted: 13 May 2015 Last revised: 25 Jun 2017
Date Written: December 1, 2014
Privacy is easy for librarians to appreciate until the discovery that other library interests — like information access; personalization of services; new services; security of people, places and data; and even variations on privacy itself — can compete with privacy. During the late 20th century, librarians and United States’ culture embraced the idea of reader privacy and particularly privacy of library use, but the 21st century has introduced many new privacy challenges. Librarians now face novel privacy implications as we consider how to make the most of new technologies and practices such as digitization of special collections, data mining of our collection use patterns, and any number of social approaches to scholarly communications. We also have an abundance of new privacy challenges relating to user information and digitized materials containing personal information, as well as a number of privacy obligations not unique to libraries such as website privacy policies, data security, and employee privacy. The tradeoffs required to protect library-related privacy are becoming more costly, and the choices are increasingly complicated by an evolving set of federal and state privacy laws and shifting policy norms which librarians must master and even help to shape.
This chapter is offered as support for librarians who must lead libraries through this fraught territory where privacy and other values collide. Privacy choices involve law, policy, and practical concerns, and each of these three considerations is subject to change due largely to rapidly developing technologies and perhaps slightly less rapidly evolving cultural norms. Librarians and especially academic law library directors are charged with taking a long view of managing a library’s collection and services, so this chapter provides a broad overview of the complex areas of related privacy law and policy to provide some guidance with more lasting utility than an examination of the many specific privacy-related challenges facing libraries at the time of this writing. The chapter begins with a brief history and current context for libraries and privacy and then identifies some approaches to addressing privacy, drawing on a sample of issues relating to privacy of library users, of individuals represented in library collections, and of library employees.
Keywords: Libraries, Privacy, Readers, Access to Information, Library Directors; Legal Research
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