New Library Privacy Guidelines offer strategies for protecting patron data in the digital environment

James LaRue
Director
jlarue@ala.org

CHICAGO —  The American Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee has approved four new library privacy guidelines that outline strategies and best practices for protecting patron privacy in the digital environment. The guidelines address online privacy and data security and are intended to assist librarians, libraries, schools and vendors in developing policies and procedures that safeguard library users' data.  The guidelines include:  

The IFC Privacy Subcommittee developed the documents, with input from additional ALA committees, divisions, interest groups, and roundtables with an interest in privacy.  The guidelines augment the previously released Library Privacy Guidelines for E-book Lending and Digital Content Vendors and Library Privacy Guidelines for Students in K-12 Schools.

"The guidelines are a good start for mapping out the areas where libraries need to work with service providers and other partners to safeguard patron privacy in the digital age," said Michael Robinson, chair of the ALA-IFC Privacy Subcommittee, and Head of Systems at the Consortium Library, University of Alaska - Anchorage. "The next challenge will be to provide resources and training to help libraries put the principles outlined in these documents into practice."

Pam Klipsch, chair of the Intellectual Freedom Committee and Director of the Jefferson County Public Library in Missouri praised the subcommittee's work. "The IFC Privacy Subcommittee has provided much-needed practical advice to the librarians and staff members we rely on to program user privacy into our library systems."

"Librarians have a long history of fiercely defending the privacy of library patrons," said Julie Todaro, president of the American Library Association. "These guidelines will assist librarians in developing new policies and best practices that will help ensure that emerging technologies and internet connectivity do not weaken library users' privacy." 

The guidelines are now available online on the ALA website.   The IFC Privacy Subcommittee encourages anyone with comments or questions to send correspondence to its ALA Staff Liaison Deborah Caldwell-Stone at dstone@ala.org .

The ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, a Committee of Council, recommends policies, practices, and procedures as may be necessary to safeguard the rights of library users, libraries, and librarians, in accordance with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Library Bill of Rights, as adopted by the ALA Council.  The IFC Privacy Subcommittee monitors ongoing privacy developments in libraries, including technology, politics, legislation, and social trends and proposes actions to the IFC to meet the privacy needs of librarians and library users.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom is charged with implementing ALA policies concerning the concept of intellectual freedom as embodied in the Library Bill of Rights, the Association’s basic policy on free access to libraries and library materials. The goal of the office is to educate librarians and the general public about the nature and importance of intellectual freedom in libraries. OIF supports the work of the Intellectual Freedom Committee and its Privacy Subcommittee.    For more information, visit www.ala.org/oif

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