Protecting privacy is a collaborative effort involving many individuals and groups.  I want to recognize the crucial role librarians and the American Library Association (ALA) have played and continue to play in protecting privacy.  Full disclosure — I have a relative who is a private sector librarian and whose work I respect greatly.

Libraries, particularly public libraries, occupy an important and unique place in our communities.  The ALA website notes that “[l]ibraries are information hubs for their communities.  They are also natural centers for learning and talking about information issues …including privacy.” (www.ala.org).  Recognizing that role, the ALA and librarians actively work to defend the rights of library users “…to read, seek information, and speak freely as guaranteed by the First Amendment.” (www.ala.org; “Intellectual Freedom” under “Key Action Areas”).

Protecting those rights has become even more critical as libraries have adapted to the digital age.  More and more online searches, by library patrons and others, create traceable records.  These technology advances have only strengthened librarians’ professional commitment “…to protect the right to search for information free from surveillance.” (www.ala.org).

Here are just a few highlights of the privacy efforts of the ALA and librarians:

  • Patron Protections: ALA and its’ members raise concerns and awareness about legislation that could dilute the confidentiality of library records and the privacy of patrons’ information searches; (www.ala.org; “Liberty, Privacy & Surveillance”);
  • Resource Materials: ALA has created an array of tools so, for example, librarians can: develop a privacy policy for their respective library; educate the public about privacy issues from Internet activities (e.g., shopping, emails, web surfing); and install privacy enhancing technology; and
  • “Choose Privacy Week”: This is a yearly May event through which librarians can engage their local communities in a discussion about privacy rights and issues in the digital age.

Visit the ALA website to learn more about the varied and robust ways that the ALA and librarians are working to promote conversations about, and protect, privacy rights.