LITA provides privacy checklists for libraries

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One of the primary ethical obligations for library people is to preserve the privacy of their patrons. This can be tough to do sometimes, and we can be leaking information in ways we have not even considered.  To help us all provide quality service, the Library Information Technology Association, working with the Intellectual Freedom Committee, has put together some checklists for you to use in your own library.

Remember: even if you are alone in your library, you are part of the CMLE system, and part of the larger profession of library and information science! We are all working together to provide great service to all our communities!

LITA affirms the ALA Code of Ethics Principle III:

“We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.”

And affirms ALA’s interpretations of the Library Bill of Rights, Articles IV and V:

“The Library Bill of Rights affirms the ethical imperative to provide unrestricted access to information and to guard against impediments to open inquiry. Article IV states: ‘Libraries should cooperate with ALL persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgement of free expression and free access to ideas.’ When users recognize or fear that their privacy or confidentiality is compromised, true freedom of inquiry no longer exists.”

“A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.”

LITA encourages every library to adopt a privacy policy consistent with these principles using the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee’s Guidelines for Developing a Privacy Policy.

To help libraries do this, LITA has partnered with ALA’s Information Freedom Committee’s Privacy Subcommittee to develop new checklists to give libraries practical assistance with implementing the Privacy Policy Guidelines. This set of seven checklists is intended to help libraries of all capacities take practical steps to implement the principles that are laid out in the ALA Library Privacy Guidelines. Each checklist is organized into three priority groups. Priority 1 are actions that hopefully all libraries can take to improve privacy practices. Priority 2 and Priority 3 actions may be more difficult for libraries to implement depending on their technical expertise, available resources, and organizational structure.

Recognizing that policies can only do so much to protect the privacy of library users, LITA advises library staff to:

  • Review state and local laws relating to the confidentiality of library records.
  • Record personally identifiable information (PII) only when necessary to provide library service or access to collections.
  • Eliminate personally identifiable information (PII) when it is no longer needed for operational purposes.
  • Make library user confidentiality a key consideration when selecting library software and systems.”