Protecting Patron Privacy: Vendors, Libraries, and Patrons Each Have a Role to Play

Our commitment to protecting our patron’s intellectual property is a guiding principle in the ALA Code of Ethics stating that librarians “protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received, and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired, or transmitted." The ALA Code of Ethics was originally adopted in 1939 before MARC records, the integrated library system, and definitely before the Internet. It is much more complicated to protect our patron’s privacy today than it was in 1939. However, it is timely to revisit the issues around patron privacy as we embark on our journey with the new administration. According to the ACLU Trump Memos (, and now confirmed by Executive Orders, we are dealing with an Administration that uses religion to justify surveillance, is threatening to deport large numbers of members of our communities, and has redefined accepted definitions of freedom of expression and libel. It is more important than ever to know how to protect our patron’s privacy.

RFID, GPS, and 3G: Radio Wave Technologies and Privacy

Another issue of Collaborative Librarianship is out and my Technology Matters column is about radio wave technologies and where the biggest privacy concerns really are. Some people refer to RFID chips as "tiny trackers" and that certainly makes them sound creepy. But it could be that the creepiest "tracker" out there is our beloved smartphone!

Here's an excerpt:

It is easy to jump onto the Big Brother bandwagon and wrap everything in tin foil but the fact is that a lot of these technologies improve our lives, even save lives. Also, more and more people appreciate the convenience provided by these various technologies more than they worry about the implications for privacy. It is important, therefore, for librarians to help our patrons become educated consumers so they can make choices that strike the right balance of privacy and convenience for themselves.