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How the Edmonds Library protects your privacy | Librarian's Desk


In light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where tens of millions of Facebook users’ data was allegedly misused to influence elections throughout the world, the reaction and impact has been felt beyond Facebook and social media.

Governments, companies and organizations have updated or reassured people that their data and privacy is protected.

You have probably received numerous emails or letters from businesses on updates to service agreements or reminders about how your privacy is protected and how your data is being used or shared.

What has the effect been on the library?

Libraries have an obligation consistent with the Constitution of the United States, state law as well as Library Bill of Rights and a professional code of conduct that has been safeguarding people’s privacy long before social media or the internet.

Sno-Isle Libraries has been well served by our library privacy statement, which was revised most recently in 2016 and updated a few times since it was adopted by the Sno-Isle Libraries Board of Trustees in 1994.

Those privacy safeguards manifest in libraries in two ways.

First is a library user’s right to ask questions without that question examined or scrutinized by others.

Second is the concept of confidentiality, when the library gains your personally identifiable information and ensures records created from that information remains private and only used in the course of library business.

Traditionally, confidential records have included circulation records, registration records, reference interviews, materials request lists, financial information or computer booking records.

With the emergence of social media and the digital transition to virtual, proprietary information like e-books and databases, librarians must work with consumer expectations that deliver technology and online experiences library users find elsewhere.

That means a balance between privacy and customizable, personalized experiences.

A relevant example is the Bibliocommons catalog that functions as a typical catalog to find material, but has the industry standard to track holds and renewals with the added social media characteristic of sharing and seeing other people’s comments and reviews.

Privacy is maintained by one’s ability to opt out of those services by simply not using the social sharing aspects of the catalog, or using parts of it that maintain your anonymity with the trade-off of less than optimal functionality.

In addition, Sno-Isle Libraries have to work with third-party vendors to provide an increasing number of online material, like Ebsco, Beanstack,

Overdrive, Hoopla, Freegal and Zinio, that are vetted and selected based on their ability to provide material and enhance the customer library experience while adhering to our commitment to the privacy of users through signed contracts and license.

Tried and tested concepts of privacy and confidentiality central to the library’s value to uphold each person’s right to free and equal access to information and ideas will be a bulwark from any impact from the recent Facebook scandal.

I’m confident that it will help guide us and inform you in the next privacy scandal du jour.


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