Library Tip Tuesday: Privacy in your library

Image: “Facebook: the privacy saga continues” by, CC BY-SA 2.0

Library Tip Tuesday!

On Tuesdays, the library brings you helpful tips for using library resources more effectively. This Tuesday, we’re going to talk about library privacy policies and what they mean for you.

It’s a common scenario

“But can’t you just tell me who has the book? Please?”

It’s a question heard often, but sadly it’s one that just can’t be answered.

Libraries and privacy

Librarians take privacy seriously. Very seriously.

As a library, we have an ethical duty to protect patron privacy, including patron records, library usage, and personally identifiable information. This is laid out within the American Library Association’s ethical framework, and within the Office for Intellectual Freedom’s mission. As part of an academic institution, Evans Library is also bound by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which regulates who can read your academic records.

So, what do all of these laws, rules, regulations, and guidelines mean for you, the user?

They mean that we’re never going to tell you who’s currently using that reserve book you really, really want. Even if you’re sure your best friend checked it out, like, 30 minutes ago and totally doesn’t mind us telling you that he has it – we’re still not going to tell you. Divulging a patron’s information is against our policies, and it’s also a really unethical thing to do.

FERPA does allow us to turn your information over to certain government agencies (public health and safety officials, law enforcement, and the Department of Homeland Security), and to school officials who have a legitimate educational interest. (See question 15 on Questions and Answers on Privacy and Confidentiality for more information.)

We hope that this information makes this things a little clearer, and that you’re resting easy knowing that we’re doing everything we can to keep your patron information safe. Your privacy matters!





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