Resolution to Protect Library User Confidentiality in Self Serve Hold Practices

Kansans:  As we approach ALA Annual in New Orleans we begin to see advance resolutions.  Here is the first.  As always, I value any input you give me on these matters.

Rob Banks, Kansas Chapter Councilor

Resolution to Protect Library User Confidentiality in Self Serve Hold Practices

WHEREAS, the  ALA Code of Ethics  states, “We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted”; and

WHEREAS,  the American Library Association affirms that rights of privacy are necessary for intellectual freedom and are fundamental to the ethics and practice of librarianship, and lack of privacy and confidentiality has a chilling effect on users’ choices.  (ALA Policy  Manual, 53.1.16 Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights); and

WHEREAS, The American Library Association strongly recommends the adoption of policies recognizing circulation records and other records identifying the names of library users with specific materials to be confidential” (ALA Policy Manual, 52.4; Confidentiality of Library Records) ; and

WHEREAS, the confidentiality of library records is protected by law or by attorney general opinion in all fifty states and in the District of Columbia; and

WHEREAS, U.S. courts have upheld the right to privacy based on the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution; 1

WHEREAS, Many libraries across the country are instituting self-service hold systems that fail to adequately protect user confidentiality and reveal personally identifiable information linking specific users to specific items;

Whereas the practice of using truncated user names or other personally identifiable information does not adequately protect user privacy; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED,  That the American Library Association

1. Urges all libraries to reject library practices and procedures for self-pickup holds that place information or requested materials in public view using patron names and/or other personally identifiable information.

2.  Urges all libraries to protect patron identity by adopting the following practices:

  • Provide  patron  privacy through the use of pseudonyms, codes, numbers, or other means that do not require personally identifiable information
  • Obscure the identity of patron requests and its content  through the practice of packaging items with a full sheet of paper, using an envelope or reusable bag to hold the item, or an equivalent option.

1.  US Constitution, 4th, 5th, and 9th Amendments and case law, including NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958)Griswold v. Connecticut 381 U.S. 479 (1965); Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967); and Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U.S. 557 (1969).

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