Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Privacy issues

While reading Britz’s article, I was reminded of a child complaining that their friend has more than they do. My personal opinion is that Britz sounded like an immature whiny brat. Yes, people without education are illiterate and don’t have the same opportunities as those who are, but libraries are free and even if every resource in the world isn’t available there, there are other resources available to them. They just choose not to take advantage of them. I’m talking about in America. I’m not sure how it is in other countries (as I’ve never traveled overseas).

The video reminded me of a situation that occurred at my last job. I had been approached by a police officer who showed me a picture and asked if I had ever seen that person inside the library. I said no (because I hadn’t) and then discussed it with my supervisor. She told me that I am not allowed to say whether or not I have seen someone in the library unless they issue a warrant for that information. From then on, all of those questions are to be referred to a supervisor and not handled at the desk. Kudos to the Connecticut librarians though! (I still don’t see how they were a threat to the Bush Administration though)

Bowers article was very interesting as I didn’t realize what laws were in place for the FBI and other such agencies. As far as I know, our computer system doesn’t keep records of what people have checked out. Unless that is something that the high tech computer people can get to! I’m kinda on the wall with this one as I don’t want my privacy taken away from, but then if someone is planning a terrorist attack, then I’d want them caught before they go through with it!


  1. Well I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who thought Britz was arguing/complaining about useless semantics. His argument was too…idealistic, maybe?

    As far as policy and police are concerned, my library has a strict rule that police MUST show a warrant if they want to talk about patrons or their records. We don’t even talk about patrons to other patrons who claim to be said patron’s friend or family member. In my opinion, the stricter we are with these policies, the better we are in the long run.

    My library (and all of PALS) has a cataloging system from SirsiDynix called Workflows. This computer database holds patron records. However, it does NOT keep a history of checkouts, record changes, or paid fines. Only current information is stored. So, if the police or Feds wanted to search out database (provided they had a warrant)…I’m not even sure how much good it would do them. I consider that some kind of ironic justice despite the Patriot Act :)

  2. John,

    The interesting thing is that some patrons are surprised when they are told that the library doesn't keep records of what they've checked out. It's almost like they expect us to be able to rattle off a list for them. Rather than tell them it's for their own benefit, we usually said that the servers couldn't handle that much information for each patron in the system. We've often told them that the only way we can tell they had something out was if they had a fine on it. Our WorkFlows program keeps paid fine records on the patron's record (unless that's since changed since I moved out of the circulation department last year).

    The funny part is that I never really understood the privacy & confidentiality aspects of everything until we had a speaker at one of our in-service days several years ago who asked how we would feel if our circulation records were available for viewing by authorities or neighbors and we could be considered suspicious or criminal for checking out books on such topics as gun values or espionage. A point well taken.