With current technology -- smart phones, social media, online credit card purchases, online banking, cloud computing, browsing histories, and more -- it is almost impossible to keep personal information private. Fortunately, Delta County Libraries cares about the privacy of library users. In fact, throughout the country this week, many libraries are honoring not only the privacy of library users to read what they want but also the role that librarians have in defending the user's right to access information anonymously whether through print or online. This week-long appreciation is known as "Choose Privacy Week."
From the Declaration of Independence to the U.S. Constitution, from the Bill of Rights to case law, Americans have demanded the right to privacy and the liberty to exercise certain freedoms, such as the freedom to read and learn and to ask questions. "As a public library receiving public funds," says library district director Lea Hart, "Delta County Libraries has made user privacy and the protection of these freedoms an essential part of our mission." Library users can explore ideas freely without fear because they have the right to unrestricted access of information and the protection to ask questions. "Library staff protects user rights," says Hart, "by maintaining consistent confidentiality with library users. We do not judge."
The purpose of "Choose Privacy Week" is for libraries to inform and educate their communities about how the libraries protect their privacy. There are several ways that Delta County library users can know that their privacy is protected. One is through the continuous deletion of browsing histories and information captured on the libraries' public computers. Technology coordinator Markee Travis explains that "all library district computers have software installed that deletes information like passwords and browsing history when patrons log off of a public computer or when the computer shuts down."
Library users are also protected through the regular purging of records of items checked out by patrons. Collections Manager Leah Morris explains that "our library computer system doesn't keep a permanent record of materials checked out by patrons. When a patron returns materials to the library and staff check in the items, the system deletes that information."
Another method of protecting patrons' privacy is how the library district handles contacting users over the phone. Morris describes that when staff members have to contact patrons regarding held materials or overdue items, staff won't disclose the title of the items to anyone but that specific user. Morris continues, "A patron might be researching a particular topic, like a disease, that she doesn't want other family members to know about. If library staff reveals those titles to someone else, then the library has broken the privacy relationship between the patron and the library, and we can't allow that to happen."
Each year, the American Library Association chooses a theme for "Choose Privacy Week." This year's theme is "Respect Me, Respect My Privacy" and focuses on the protection of children's privacy, especially with technology. Recent studies have shown that children and young adults are providing personal information online at alarming rates -- photos, first and last names, their town, and their email address. "Delta County Libraries takes this trend very seriously when assisting our children and young adult library users," Hart says. "That is why our youth librarians are always eager to help children find the right reading materials either in print or online, and we are always encouraging parents to become actively engaged in what their children are reading."
To learn more, please visit Delta County Libraries' website at www.deltalibraries.org or speak with library staff.