2011-2012 Year In Review
2011–2012 ALA President Molly Raphael’s presidential initiatives centered on “Empowering Voices,” and one component focused on “Empowering Diverse Voices,” for which five separate products were developed:
- At the 2012 ALA Midwinter Meeting, 18 “Champion Seekers” and 24 “Champions” participated in Champion Connections that allowed each Seeker the opportunity to spend 10 minutes with eight Champions hand-picked to serve as potential mentors based on geographical proximity, demographics, library specialties, and organizations of interest. Seekers were also encouraged to volunteer for committee service and given personalized help in choosing and securing meaningful service opportunities.
- An Association Options Fair was held at the 2012 Annual Conference, providing interested members from diverse backgrounds a chance to discuss volunteer opportunities with Association, division, committee, and round table representatives. About 120 conference attendees participated in the event, which took a “speed dating” approach in which members visited briefly with various member groups, enabling both to take note of possible leads for future involvement.
- Two Leadership Series webinars were presented and recorded for ongoing access. Library Leadership 2.0: The Intersection of Diversity and Leadership featured Karen Downing, education liaison and foundations and grants librarian, and Alexandra Rivera, student enrichment and community outreach librarian, both at the University of Michigan Library. A recording of "Library Leadership 2.0: The Intersection of Diversity and Leadership" can be viewed online.
Perspectives on Leadership featured five library leaders—Camila Alire, dean emerita at the University of New Mexico and Colorado State University and past president of ALA; Maribel Castro, high school librarian at Coronado High School in Lubbock, Texas, and past president of the Texas Library Association; Trevor Dawes, circulation services director at Princeton University Library and 2012–2013 president-elect of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL); Marcellus Turner, city librarian at the Seattle Public Library; and Patty Wong, county librarian/archivist at Yolo County Library, Woodland, California—in a conversation moderated by Janice Welburn, dean of Marquette University Raynor Memorial Libraries; a recording of the conversation, "Perspectives on Leadership," is available online.
- A Leadership Video Series featured more than 30 leaders from across the Association, including past ALA presidents, division presidents, round table and state chapter leaders, and presidents of affiliate associations. The video series provides examples of how people have become involved in ALA and developed leadership positions. The six videos are available on ALA’s YouTube Channel.
- The Building Bridges Across Mentoring Program resulted in an updated ALA mentoring program website. A checklist was developed to guide ALA in improving existing mentoring programs, guiding the development of new programs, and promoting the suite of programs to mentees and mentors.
The second component of Raphael’s initiative centered on “Empowering Voices, Transforming Communities” and focused on engaging communities to advocate for libraries based on factors that matter to the communities and their leaders. The initiative was kicked off at the 2012 Midwinter Meeting with a two-part “conversation” facilitated by author R. David Lankes and the ALA President’s Program featuring Richard Harwood, of the Harwood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.
Between March and June, a series of three webinars was created, focused on engaging communities, the evolving role of libraries, and strengthening the librarian’s voice to help shape community perception. Read more at Empowering Voices, Transforming Communities.
Raphael’s “Empowering Voices, Transforming Communities” initiative was continued and built upon by her successor, Maureen Sullivan, through a partnership being developed with the Harwood Institute.
Libraries as tech centers
The Office for Research and Statistics (ORS) once again collaborated with the Information Policy and Access Center at the University of Maryland to conduct the 2011–2012 Public Library Funding & Technology Access Study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Begun in 1994, this annual study is the largest existing study of Internet connectivity in public libraries. Its findings provide an annual “state of the library” report on the technology resources brokered by public libraries and the funding that enables no-fee public access to these resources.
Facing fiscal challenges on all sides—local, state, and federal—public libraries strive to meet the expanding technology needs of their communities. Public computer and wifi use increased last year at more than 60 percent of libraries. Nationwide, more than 62 percent of libraries report offering the only free Internet access in their community. More than 90 percent of public libraries now offer formal or informal technology training.
More than three-quarters of libraries (76.3 percent) offer access to e-books, a significant increase (9.1 percent) from the previous year. Additionally, e-book readers are available for checkout at 39.1 percent of public libraries.
After more than four years of consecutive budget cuts, it is unclear whether libraries will be able to recover the funding needed to return to pre-recession levels of staffing, open hours, collections, and technology services. While a segment of U.S. public libraries reported budget improvements, many libraries continue to grapple with the negative, cumulative effects of ongoing budget woes.
ORS collects academic library statistics
The ORS continued to provide research assistance to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The 2012 biennial survey collected data from approximately 3,700 libraries of degree-granting colleges and universities. The NCES report includes data about collections, staff, services and facilities. More about the Academic Library Survey is available online.
ALA conducts membership demographic study
More than 40,776 current ALA members have participated in a voluntary, self-selected membership demographics survey.
Baby boomers—born between 1946 and 1964—represent 46.9 percent of the ALA membership responding as of the March 2012 analysis of the ALA Member Demographic Survey. Members already at retirement age (over age 65) represent 7.5 percent (2,940) of those who provided a date of birth in their response. If we estimate retirement age beginning at age 62, then approximately 14.7 percent of members reporting their date of birth fall into that range (5,735 respondents).
Membership characteristics remain largely unchanged since ALA began collecting these data. Much like the library profession overall, ALA members:
- Are predominantly female (80.7 percent).
- Are predominantly white (88.7 percent).
- Hold an MLS or other master’s degree (63.8 percent and 26.5 percent, respectively).
Another active year for the Campaign for America’s Libraries
Season six of the Step Up to the Plate @ your library program, developed by ALA and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, concluded with a grand-prize drawing at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Baseball Hall of Fame Library Director Jim Gates chose Kelsey Willems, 12, of New Berlin, Wisconsin, as the winner.
The program teams up two American classics—libraries and baseball—to promote libraries and important information centers. Fans of all ages used the print and electronic resources at their library to answer a series of baseball trivia questions developed by the library and research staff at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The seventh season kicked off in June 2012 on ALA’s atyourlibrary.org. Participants were challenged to answer one baseball trivia question per week for a chance to win the grand prize: a trip to the Hall of Fame for a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum’s library and archives.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is a partner in the Campaign for America’s Libraries.
Connect with your kids @ your library
Launched at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, Connect with your kids @ your library continued to position the library as the place for quality family time.
With content for parents housed on atyourlibrary.org/connectwithyourkids, Connect with your kids @ your library promotes the library as a trusted place to spend quality time with children by making parents aware of all the free high-quality programs at the library for parents and their children and teens.
Each week, the Connect with your kids @ your library blog features new content for parents. Recent content has included tie-ins with The Hunger Games, steampunk, and comics. As part of the atyourlibrary.org website, this content is available for use by librarians under a Creative Commons license.
Lifetime Networks continued to air the campaign’s public service announcements (PSAs), which feature families engaging in activities such as reading together, using computers, and researching family history. Lifetime provided ALA with a grant to support the development of the two television PSAs in 2011. These PSAs, a Connect with your kids @ your library Family Activity Guide, and other materials are available to libraries for free on the Connect with your kids @ your library website.
Lifetime Networks is a partner in the Campaign for America’s Libraries.
The American Dream Starts @ your library
A digital supplement to American Libraries magazine featured highlights from the second round of the American Dream Starts @ your library program. The supplement tells the story of how libraries expanded their print and digital ESL collections, added new technologies, increased outreach and bookmobile services, built community partnerships, and engaged the media to promote library resources.
In the second round, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation provided 73 public libraries in 23 states $5,000 grants to build innovative literacy services for adult English language learners living in their communities.
The program was administered by the Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS). The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is a partner in the Campaign for America’s Libraries.
Library Card Sign-up Month
As honorary chair of Library Card Sign-up Month, Hall of Famer and author Cal Ripken donated his image to a print PSA that appeared in national publications including Time magazine, with placements totaling almost $500,000. Library Card Sign-up Month, held annually in September, is a time to remind parents that a library card is the most important school supply of all.
National Library Week
Bestselling author Brad Meltzer was honorary chair of National Library Week 2012, held April 8–14. A full-page PSA of the author and host of the History Channel’s “Decoded” appeared in Time magazine and other publications with national reach. The total circulation for the publications is 5.4 million, and the donated ad value is more than $400,000.
Electronic banner ads are appeared on Time magazine’s website during National Library Week. Electronic ads appeared on other media websites as well through a PSA donation from a D.C.-based ad network that works with nonprofits.
ALA’s public awareness website continued to enjoy dramatic growth during 2011–2012, with the average number of visitors to the site increasing by 263 percent and page views increasing 208 percent. Facebook and Twitter followers and newsletter subscribers have increased by more than 100 percent.
The website offers resources that everyone can take advantage of at their local library. Content targets teens, parents and kids, seniors, job seekers, and many others. Recent pop culture promotions that relate to libraries have included "The Hunger Games," "The Lorax," and downloadable Facebook cover art in support of National Library Week. New promotions are launched on a regular basis.
All content on atyourlibrary.org is available though a Creative Commons license so that librarians can repurpose articles for local publications.
The Campaign for the World’s Libraries
The @ your library logo is currently available in 32 languages and in the colors of each partner country’s flag colors, and several library associations expanded their @ your library programs in 2012.
In March, the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) developed its latest South African Library Week campaign, Develop @ your library. The theme reminded users that libraries create programs that focus on skills development, providing access to information, granting access to computers and online tools, enabling users to develop their computer skills, as well as providing tools that allow them to write resumes and search for jobs. Posters featuring the theme were sent out to all LIASA member libraries, along with downloadable bookmarks, t-shirt designs, and customizable graphics.
The Library and Information Association of Jamaica (LIAJA) launched its own @ your library campaign in partnership with the Jamaica Library Service (JLS), the Public Library Network, and the School Library Network to provide reading activities under the theme Learn to Read—Read to Learn @ your library. The objective of the partnership included developing lifelong voluntary readers and promoting the role of libraries and librarians.
The Campaign for the World’s Libraries was developed by ALA and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) to showcase the unique and vital roles played by public, school, academic, and special libraries worldwide.
250 libraries participate in Money Smart Week @ your library
Libraries from Maine to Hawaii helped members of their communities become “money smart” during Money Smart Week @ your library, held April 21–28. Money Smart Week @ your library is a partnership initiative between ALA and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to expand Money Smart Week® to libraries nationwide. More than 250 libraries in 39 states presented programs related to personal financial literacy for all ages and all stages of life.
Libraries partnered with community groups, financial institutions, government agencies, educational organizations, and other financial experts to help consumers learn to better manage their personal finances. General topic areas ranged from “Credit and Debt Management” to “Kids and Money” to “Retirement Planning” to “Savvy Shopping and Bargain Hunting.”
One of Falmouth (Maine) Memorial Library’s programs was “Healthy Skepticism: Tips for Keeping Your Identity Safe,” while the Hawaii State Library’s program included “Money Smart Family Storytime” to teach kids l about money through stories and crafts.
For some libraries, programs in Spanish are important. Kern County (Calif.) Library held a session on “Curso Bancario Basico” (“Basic Bank Course”), and Pima County (Ariz.) Library provided homebuyer education with “Aprende el Proceso de Comprar Casa” (“Learn How to Buy a House”).
Smart Investing @ your library gives $5.9 million in grants
As of December 2011, Smart Investing @ your library approved 80 grants totaling $5.9 million. These grants support projects to improve access to quality, unbiased financial education resources and learning opportunities for library users nationwide. Smart Investing @ your library establishes, tests, and shares models that other libraries can adopt or adapt for their own communities.
Smart Investing @ your library is administered jointly by the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation. FINRA is a partner in the Campaign for America’s Libraries.
ALA Library increases social media presence
The ALA Library uses a variety of social media tools to respond to inquiries and to get information out. In the past year, the library continued to build information into the Professional Tips Wiki, its Facebook fan base grew by more than 20 percent, and some of its 25,000 Twitter followers use that vehicle to send inquiries or comments on ALA activities. Inquiries received through these new channels were a small but growing portion of the more than 4,000 inquiries fielded each year; well over half of these are e-mailed, with about one-third coming from staff and members. New this year is a Pinterest board linking to the questions blogged for the American Libraries magazine website.
More traditionally, the ALA Library maintains extensive professional resources material arranged in the Professional Tools portal on the ALA website. The portal includes topical access to information arranged in an A-Z listing, as well as the popular ALA Library Fact Sheets, which received upward of 265,000 hits in the past year—a 33 percent increase. Built around the most frequently asked questions, the fact sheets provide a useful starting point for those wishing to know more about the number of libraries, the largest libraries, disaster response, starting a library, donating materials to libraries, and selling to libraries.
Under the leadership of half-time reference librarian Rebecca Gerber, the ALA Library launched a portal on ALA’s new strategic goal, transforming libraries. Also developed for integration with the ALA website is a database of resources documenting the value of libraries.
ALA Librarian Karen Muller, an alumna of the University of Michigan, again coordinated week-long internships by four students from the UM’s School of Information participating in the SI’s Alternative Spring Break program.
ACRL focuses on advocacy
Public policy issues affecting higher education remain a critical focus of the association. Each year, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Government Relations Committee, in consultation with the ACRL Board of Directors and staff, formulates a legislative agenda. Drafted with input from the ACRL Scholarly Communication and Copyright committees, along with additional committees, ACRL leaders, and the ALA Washington Office, the legislative agenda is prioritized and includes objectives for legislative action at the national level on issues that may affect the welfare of academic and research libraries. The 2012 ACRL Legislative Agenda focuses on seven priorities, including public access to federally funded research, “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, government information, the Freedom of Information Act, and section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.
ACRL joined eight other national and regional library, publishing, research, and advocacy organizations in a letter to thank members of Congress who introduced “The Federal Research Public Access Act” as H.R. 4004 in the U.S. House of Representatives and S. 2096 in the U.S. Senate. The letter states, “This bill will provide an important mechanism to ensure that manuscripts of peer-reviewed scientific articles reporting on research funded by the U.S. government can be freely accessed and used by all American taxpayers—including researchers, teachers, students, and businesses. Timely, barrier-free access to the results of federally funded research is an essential component of our collective investment in science.”
ACRL 2011–12 President Joyce L. Ogburn sent a letter on behalf of the association to William Boarman, public printer of the United States, and Mary Alice Baish, superintendent of documents, in regard to U.S. Government Printing Office rulings on multistate depository libraries. Through the letter, ACRL lent its voice to the conversation on the state of depository libraries.
On January 24, 2012, ACRL joined ALA and eight other library, publishing, and advocacy organizations in sending a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to express strong opposition to H.R. 3699, “The Research Works Act.” The letter states, “This proposed legislation would unfairly and unnecessarily prohibit federal agencies from conditioning research grants to ensure that all members of the public receive timely, equitable, online access to articles that report the results of federally funded research that their tax dollars directly support.”
In January 2012, ACRL additionally submitted comments in response to the request for information (RFI) issued November 3, 2011, by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). ACRL recommended approaches for ensuring long-term stewardship and encouraging broad public access to unclassified digital data that result from federally funded scientific research. ACRL’s comments address the first nine questions posed in the RFI about policy for preservation, discoverability, and access. This second set of comments followed comments to the OSTP in December 2011 about public access to the peer-reviewed scholarly publications that result from federally funded scientific research.
ACRL continues to be an active partner with ALA and the Association of Research Libraries in the Library Copyright Alliance. Over the course of the past year, the group issued comments on pending legislation and court cases, joined briefs, and released papers and guides on a range of copyright and fair use issues, including the Stop Online Piracy Act, the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, anticircumvention, Authors Guild vs. HathiTrust, lending rights, and orphan works.
OIF expands online learning
The Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) continued to aggressively pursue new online learning opportunities for libraries this year. In the fall, OIF sponsored a free webinar on Banned Books Week programming and also partnered with IFLA/FAIFE to offer three webinars focusing on international intellectual freedom issues. The Merritt Fund partnered with Human Resource Development and Recruitment/JobLIST on a webinar, “Moving Difficult Conversations Toward Positive Outcomes: Coping with Challenges in the Library Workplace.” OIF delivered three recorded webcasts as resources for Choose Privacy Week in May 2012, along with two live sessions on self-service holds in response to a resolution passed by ALA Council. In 2012–13, OIF will continue to focus on meeting growing demand for flexible, online learning and also on using technology to strengthen its 50-state network of intellectual freedom advocates.
OIF grant helps provide news literacy training to students
OIF received a two-year grant from the Open Society Foundations to design, market, and deliver a news literacy training program to high school students—using libraries and librarians as the information literacy hubs. News Know-how was successfully implemented in several rural Iowa libraries; Oak Park (IL); and the YouMedia Center at CPL.
Librarians and nationally renowned journalists team up for the training. The goal is to create young news “watchdogs” who can discern fact from opinion in the news, in all formats. OIF’s partner is the News Literacy Project of Bethesda, Md. Libraries held summer schools for students, who learned about their “news neighborhoods” and studied examples of fact-checking various press stories. The focus of the student projects was the 2012 national election. Some students reported that the project broadened their horizons for future career choices and changed the way they look at the news.
Banned Books Week marks 30 years
Banned Books Week’s 30th Anniversary demonstrated how the annual event has captured the imagination of library users and readers worldwide. Honorary Chairs Bill and Judith Moyers created a video that explained how libraries change lives. The black, white, and red posters for 2011–2012 were finalists for a national design award. The OIF website featured a “50 State Salute,” in which almost every state library association contributed a video to celebrate Banned Books Week. OIF also partnered for the second time with the American Association of School Librarians on “Banned Sites Awareness Day” to address the growing problem of blocked websites.
Another highlight of the site this year was the timeline “Thirty Years of Liberating Literature,” which featured one book a day. This innovative visual representation of challenged books over time garnered lots of attention on social media, particularly Facebook.
The bannedbooksweek.org website is shared with our partners, including the Association of American Publishers, the American Booksellers’ Foundation for Free Expression, and the National Coalition Against Censorship.
This year for the first time, the Chicago Humanities Festival included ALA and OIF specifically as a sponsor of a program, “The Case for Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer,” by Loren Glass of the University of Iowa’s Center for the Book. The program was introduced by Peggy Sullivan, former ALA president and executive director.
This was the third year the Freedom to Read Foundation awarded grants to several libraries and organizations around the United States to make local engagement possible. One highlight was the Lawrence (Kans.) Public Library’s popular baseball trading cards designed by seven artists.
The OIF’s Barbara Jones and Jonathan Kelley spoke at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions conference in Helsinki about Banned Books Week’s international reach, including the Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE) Book Club’s second selection, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. (FAIFE is the free expression committee of IFLA.) Several countries are participating in the online book club.
Freedom to Read Foundation notes
In the summer of 2012, the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) unveiled its new website, newsletter, and blog—all graphically striking and user-friendly—and began its largest membership campaign using social media for the first time to reach Generation X.
Michael Bamberger was presented with the 2012 FTRF Roll of Honor award at the Opening General Session of ALA’s Annual Conference in Anaheim. Bamberger is the general counsel of the Media Coalition, of which FTRF is a member, and has helped overturn dozens of federal, state, and local laws intended to censor art and information in the United States. His amicus brief was key in the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn the violent video games case Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association.
FTRF hosted a sold-out event at Midwinter Meeting, as banned author John Green appeared before a mob of screaming young fans and their parents at the Dallas Public Library to discuss why censorship is wrong. Green has been the subject of significant controversy, with "Looking for Alaska" being challenged in several school libraries.
At the 2012 Annual Conference, FTRF hosted a free sneak preview of the new film "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." Banned author Steven Chbosky appeared to answer questions and sign his books.
One of FTRF’s longstanding lawsuits, Florence v. Shurtleff, reached a successful conclusion after many years of litigation and negotiation with the state of Utah. On May 16, 2012, the district court entered an order and declaratory judgment in favor of FTRF and other plaintiffs, ruling that the Utah “harmful to minors” statute violates the First Amendment. In its order, the court said that people cannot be prosecuted for posting content constitutionally protected for adults on generally accessible websites, and further held that those publishing constitutionally protected material on the Internet are not required by law to rate or label that material.
In January 2012, FTRF joined another member of the Media Coalition to file an amicus curiae brief in United States v. Alvarez, a challenge to the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act, a federal law that made it a federal crime to lie about having received military honors. The amicus brief argued that the Act violated the First Amendment since all speech is presumed to be protected by the First Amendment unless it falls under one of the historic categories of unprotected speech such as defamation or obscenity.
Alvarez, the defendant, was charged with violating the act after he falsely told the audience at a meeting that he had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. After the district court rejected Alvarez’s attempt to have the charges dismissed on the grounds that the act violated his First Amendment right to free speech, Alvarez pleaded guilty but reserved the right to challenge the constitutionality of the act on appeal.On June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled the Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional, ruling that even false speech was presumptively protected by the First Amendment, firmly rejecting the government’s argument that lies fall into a general category of unprotected speech.
FTRF also monitors lawsuits that raise significant First Amendment issues. Most prominent among these are lawsuits filed by library users who claim that the library’s use of Internet filtering software denies their right to freely access general interest web sites or view websites that express a disfavored viewpoint.
One such lawsuit, PFLAG, Inc. v. Camdenton R-III School District, ended with a February 2012 judgment that upheld minors’ First Amendment right to access information that is constitutionally protected for youth. Students and parents sued after the school district installed filtering software that blocked access to websites supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people while allowing full and free access to sites that opposed LGBT rights and criticized LGBT people. The filtering software censored the pro-gay rights websites by employing a discriminatory “sexuality” category that classified pro-LGBT sites as smut, no matter their content. The court ordered the school district to stop using the discriminatory filter and required the school district to submit to monitoring for 18 months to confirm compliance with the court’s order. The school district was also required to pay $125,000 in legal fees to the plaintiffs and their attorneys.
A second Internet filtering lawsuit, Bradburn et al. v. North Central Regional Library District, concluded with a judgment in favor of the library. Three library users, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington State, filed a federal lawsuit against the library in 2006 after the library refused to temporarily disable Internet filters so that the users could access websites addressing several general interest topics, such as youth tobacco use, art galleries, and weapons. In April 2012, the federal district court held that the library filtering policy ruled that the library could make content-based decisions about what materials are provided to patrons on Internet terminals in the same manner as it makes collection decision for books in the library, even though the space limitations and funding issues that require libraries to choose among books do not apply to Internet materials. The court upheld the policy in part because of its belief that the libraries’ relatively small size and lack of separate children’s space made such a policy necessary.
The court’s decision to uphold the library’s filtering policy appears to be in conflict with the decision of the Supreme Court in the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) case, which was upheld because the justices accepted the solicitor general’s argument that the law permitted adults to request disabling of the filter with no need to justify their request. As such, FTRF firmly believes that the Bradburn case is wrongly decided and inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s decision on CIPA.
The ACLU decided not to appeal the decision, based on both factual and legal considerations; important among these is the decision of the North Central Library to alter its filtering policies in response to the lawsuit. In addition, the court refused to allow the opinion to be published. As such, the decision has little or no precedential value in other courts and offers no assurance that a library will not be sued if it adopts a filtering policy that does not allow users to disable or unblock the filter to access constitutionally protected materials. In brief, the court’s decision cannot be used to justify or defend filtering policies that do not conform to the CIPA statute and the Supreme Court’s decision.
Choose Privacy Week focuses on “Freedom from Surveillance”
Choose Privacy Week 2012, held May 1–7, focused on the theme “Freedom from Surveillance,” with the overall goal of helping individuals understand how government agencies and corporations are monitoring and tracking their activities by collecting, storing, and using their personal data and identifying information.
Choose Privacy Week featured the debut of a new documentary, “Vanishing Liberties: The Rise of State Surveillance in the Digital Age,” which examined the government’s growing use of surveillance tools to track and spy on immigrant communities. Featured speakers included Michael German, ACLU senior policy counsel for national security and privacy; Margaret Huang, executive director of the Rights Working Group; Paromita Shah, associate director of the National Immigration Project; Julia Shearson, executive director at the Council on American Islamic Relations in Cleveland; and Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
In the weeks leading up to Choose Privacy Week, OIF presented three webinars that explored general themes related to privacy rights and government surveillance for librarians planning programming for Choose Privacy Week. Topics addressed by the webinars included “Data Mining, Government Surveillance, and Civil Liberties,” presented by Michael German of the ACLU; “Challenging Government Surveillance in the Library,” presented by George Christian, executive director of the Library Connection Inc.; and “The Future of Biometrics and Government Surveillance,” presented by Amie Stepanovich, legal counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
OIF’s online outreach for Choose Privacy Week happens via privacyrevolution.org, its dedicated website for the Privacy for All initiative. The site includes a blog, online videos, downloadable graphics, and other privacy-related resources for librarians and the general public. OIF also employs Facebook and Twitter to remain in touch with librarians, their constituents, and individuals concerned with privacy issues. Facebook and Twitter are especially valuable tools for highlighting and broadcasting information about Choose Privacy Week and privacy-related information. The Twitter feed at twitter.com/privacyala has a current total of 3,091 followers who regularly retweet and amplify messages; the Facebook page has reached 1,150 fans.
During Choose Privacy Week, privacyrevolution.org featured four guest bloggers who expanded on the theme of “Freedom from Surveillance.” Bloggers included OIF Director Barbara Jones writing about the important role librarians can play as privacy experts for their community; George Christian, executive director of the Library Connection, writing about libraries as the best defenders of privacy rights; Neil Richards, professor of law at Washington University, on privacy and the perils of social reading; and J. Douglas Archer, reference and peace studies librarian at the University of Notre Dame and chair of the ALA-IFC Privacy Subcommittee, writing on why each citizen needs to care about privacy.
ALA’s offices, divisions, and round tables also served as active allies and partners, promoting Choose Privacy Week resources to their constituencies and creating their own “Choose Privacy” resources to support the event, including an online quiz that attempted to dispel common privacy myths. A particular highlight was the “@ Your Library” campaign’s widely distributed online article that provided parents with tips on online privacy and safety for youth.
OIF launches initiative on immigrants, libraries, and privacy
With Choose Privacy Week an established ALA event, OIF moved forward with a new initiative to develop programming that will help immigrants understand their privacy rights under a national security scheme that targets immigrants for surveillance.
The initiative builds on the work of many libraries in immigrant communities, with the goal of enhancing existing library programs for immigrants rather than inventing new programs.
Planning for the initiative included visits to libraries with active and award-winning library services for immigrants, including the Lexington (Ky.) Public Library System; the Queens (N.Y.) Library System, and the Orland Park Public Library in suburban Chicago. OIF Director Barbara Jones then returned to the Lexington Public Library’s Village branch with assessment consultants Michael Zimmer and Adriana McCleer of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee to test and evaluate proposed privacy programming for immigrant youth. An April 21, 2012, pizza party and evening program for immigrant teenagers discussed how teens can protect their privacy in such venues as school, doctors’ offices, clothing stores, and banks and was attended by approximately 20 engaged teens. Zimmer and McCleer were able to suggest ways to improve the slides and program to make it more relevant to that group.
“Vanishing Liberties: The Rise of State Surveillance in the Digital Age,” the new Choose Privacy Week documentary, fulfilled a second goal for this phase of the Privacy for All initiative by establishing a foundation for discussion of immigrant privacy issues and forging alliances with groups working to protect immigrants’ privacy rights and civil liberties.
A June 2012 event at the Queens Public Library’s Jamaica branch brought together the librarians from the Lexington, Queens, Orland Park, and Blue Island public libraries with the OIF staff and the UW/Milwaukee assessment team to discuss next steps for the initiative. Discussions with Queens Library professionals involved with the library’s New Americans program led to the group’s conclusion that the best way to introduce the concept of privacy to immigrant library users is to embed privacy concepts and themes into existing library programming that addresses topics like financial planning, parenting skills, and preparation for citizenship. Michael Zimmer and others are now working on a grant proposal to be presented to government and private funders that will enable OIF to create programming materials to achieve this goal.
New survey evaluates librarians’ attitudes about privacy
To follow up on its 2008 survey of librarians’ attitudes and behaviors regarding privacy, OIF worked with its consultant, Michael Zimmer, to design a new survey instrument and to administer the survey to a new sample of library professionals in early 2012. The goal was to provide better context and greater insights for addressing the issue of library privacy and government surveillance.
“Librarian Attitudes Regarding Information and Internet Privacy” provides important data and benchmarks that will help OIF and ALA evaluate the attitudes of librarians and guide the development of future initiatives aimed at engaging librarians in public education and advocacy to advance privacy rights.
The survey results confirmed librarians’ general concerns over privacy and desire to control access and use of personal information. For example, 95 percent of respondents agree or strongly agree that individuals should be able to control who sees their personal information, 90 percent agree or strongly agree that companies are collecting too much personal information, and 70 percent are similarly concerned about government data collection practices.
The survey also revealed how libraries are addressing patron privacy, with some enlightening results to drive future advocacy. For example, nearly 100 percent of respondents agreed that “libraries should never share personal information, circulation records, or Internet use records with third parties unless it has been authorized by the individual or by a court of law,” but only 76 percent felt libraries are doing all they can to prevent unauthorized access to individuals’ personal information and circulation records. Similarly, while nearly 80 percent felt libraries should play a role in educating the general public about privacy issues, only 13 percent indicated their library has hosted or organized public information sessions, lectures, seminars, or other events related to privacy and surveillance in the past five years.
The full results are being prepared for publication in the peer-reviewed academic journal Library & Information Science Research in 2013.
Privacy for All initiative wins award
In June 2012, Consumer Action, a nonprofit consumer rights organization based in Washington, D.C., recognized OIF’s advocacy on behalf of privacy rights with its 2012 Consumer Excellence Award. In presenting the award, Consumer Action cited OIF’s ongoing efforts to educate consumers on their privacy rights via Choose Privacy Week, the privacyrevolution.org website, and its short videos on privacy, including the 2012 Choose Privacy Week video, “Vanishing Liberties.” Consumer Action formally presented the award to OIF on October 2, 2012.