Privacy

"All people, regardless of origin, age, background, or views, possess a right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use.  Libraries should advocate for, educate about, and protect people's privacy." The Library Bill of Rights, Article VII

 

The right to privacy – the right to read, consider, and develop ideas and beliefs free from observation or unwanted surveillance by the government or others – is the bedrock foundation for intellectual freedom. Privacy is essential to free inquiry in the library because it enables library users to select, access, and consider information and ideas without fear of embarrassment, judgment, punishment, or ostracism. A lack of privacy in what one reads and views in the library can have a significant chilling effect upon library users’ willingness to exercise their First Amendment right to read, thereby impairing free access to ideas. True liberty of choice in the library requires both a varied selection of materials and the assurance that one's choices are not monitored.

The possibility of surveillance, whether direct or through access to records of speech, research and exploration, undermines a democratic society. One cannot exercise the right to read if the possible consequences include damage to one's reputation, ostracism from the community or workplace, or criminal penalties. Choice requires both a varied selection and the assurance that one's choice is not monitored. For libraries to flourish as centers for uninhibited access to information, librarians must stand behind their users' right to privacy and freedom of inquiry.

 

Privacy Core Values

Explore why privacy is important to libraries through policy statements and resolutions.

Privacy Questions and Answers

Responses to common inquiries.

Privacy Field Guides

Hands-on tools to take action on privacy topics in your library.

Privacy Guidelines & Checklists

Best practices to build your library’s privacy infrastructure.

Privacy Audits

Ensure that your library’s privacy practices are consistent with its promises.

Privacy Students and Minors

Guidance to ensure the right to privacy for all ages.

Privacy Laws and Law enforcement

State laws and how to respond to requests for user data. 

Privacy Training and Programming

Resources for educating staff and users.

Privacy Become an advocate

Work to positively impact privacy in libraries.

 

Assistance and Consultation

The staff of the Office for Intellectual Freedom is available to answer questions, provide assistance, or consult with policy development to librarians, trustees, educators, and the public about privacy issues and resources. Inquiries can be directed via email to oif@ala.org or via phone at (312) 280-4226.

 

Updated October 2021