Our library is committed to protecting the privacy and confidentiality of our users. Why?
Because we believe that freedom of speech is meaningless without the freedom to read. Confidentiality and privacy are essential to these freedoms, because if library users have to worry about being judged, punished, ostracized, or put under surveillance, they may censor themselves. They may not seek answers to their questions or read the things they want to read, either in print or online. To be free and to govern themselves, people must be able to explore ideas—even controversial ideas—without fear.
If library users aren’t doing anything wrong, why should they care about privacy?
There are many reasons why library users might want their privacy and confidentiality protected. Perhaps they have been diagnosed with a disease and want to learn more about it before they tell their children. They may be suffering from domestic or child abuse and want to find out how to get help. They may be researching their rights before deciding to blow the whistle on illegal activity at work. Or perhaps they’re planning a special vacation as a surprise gift for a loved one. Privacy isn’t about protecting people who are doing bad things. It’s about giving our users the power to decide for themselves who will know about their reading and research interests. If a user chooses to share her reading list with others, that’s fine; but we can’t assume everyone wants that.
But what if someone is doing something wrong, and the police need to see their library records to investigate a crime?
Librarians comply with law enforcement requests for information about users—as long as those requests come in the form of court orders. This ensures that a third party has considered whether the information is really critical for the investigation, and it helps prevent unnecessary invasions of privacy.
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