Although many librarians may be understandably new to the topic of online surveillance, information professionals are not new to defending intellectual freedom and the right to read and voice dissenting opinions, as well as the rights of historically marginalized people who continue to be under the most surveillance.
Librarians are known for refusing requests from local law enforcement soliciting details on user browsing and borrowing records. The ALA has counted privacy among its core values since 1939, recognizing it as essential to free speech and intellectual freedom. And the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions is a signatory on the Thirteen International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance. As Kade Crockford puts it, “Perhaps more than anyone in our society, librarians represent the values that make a democracy strong, intellectual freedom foremost among them.””
I love being able to assure patrons at my library that we don’t keep record of the books they’ve read. Our checkout system will keep only three lists about you: the current materials you have out, the very last person to have checked out a book, and a list of all the items you’ve lost or damaged.
And you know what? All three vary and go away. The first clears when you turn in your books. The second clears when someone else checks them out or when we purge those items from our records. The third clears as soon as missing items are returned or damages paid for.
I love that. We value privacy so highly that if cops or other law groups asked us these things, we’d be simply unwilling but also unable to fulfill their requests.
When I worked at a non-profit that handled suicide prevention, I had access to the donation records. Each month, a specific man donated 15$ to our organization. It was like clockwork.. same day, same man, he had been doing this for over 4 years. It always seemed odd to me but I never questioned it… until I saw a note attached one month. "For Noah- Dad"
his donation was once his child’s allowance.
I can promise you, they would miss you for the rest of their lives.