Library Security and Insecurity – A Brief Risk Assessment

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Library Security and Insecurity : Sacramento Public Library , Ocean State Libraries and The Library Connection

Library Security and Insecurity  – A Brief Risk Assessment

~ Robert L. Balliot, MLIS

Anne Frontino of the Haddonfield Public Library in New Jersey queried the PubLib Listserve about  privacy and possible misuse of library barcodes on smartphones remarking:

Our library is considering allowing patrons to use barcodes scanned onto their smart phones to check out books.  …    We have only had a few instances of patrons trying this method of checking out items, but we feel that there may be some privacy or other misuse issues lurking.

Responses varied from Manya Shorr of the Sacramento Public Library advocating for use of barcodes without requiring authentication  to Dale McNeill of the Queens Library advocating familiar authentication such as PINs.  

It was obvious that there is no universally accepted standard for securing library user information, yet privacy is a cornerstone of libraries, library ethics, and the library profession.  In fact, a privacy guarantee may be the one thing in the information age that sets libraries apart from other massive information resources.  It may be the singular added value that provides validation of libraries as a public service.

Library records and library use are afforded privacy protection by statute and / or published opinions in the fifty States and the District of Columbia. Many states have enacted Security Breach notification laws and Data Disposal laws that safeguard privacy. Library user privacy is also championed by the American Library Association  Code of Ethics specifically through Article III:  

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. ~~   read more

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