Privacy is a core value of librarianship, yet it often feels like an overwhelming and onerous undertaking. With the creation of ever larger datasets and methods to track users’ every movement, library workers need to have a deep understanding of privacy, confidentiality, and security. However, library workers kept saying that there was a lack of practical how-to guides for making concrete privacy changes in the library.
To address the concerns voiced by library workers, Bonnie Tijerina and Erin Berman partnered to create the Privacy Field Guides. Sponsored by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (grant LG-36-19-0073-19) and the American Library Association, these guides were designed to work in school, public, and academic libraries. Library stakeholders from across the country participated in surveys, trainings, workshops, and focus groups to provide input and guidance about the content and format of these guides. Library privacy experts wrote the guides which were then put through real-world testing before reaching their final versions. The Privacy Field Guides are structured to give library workers the tools they need to create and be advocates for a safer more secure library.
All of the Field Guides follow the same easy-to-use format. Choose a guide on a topic that interests you or is in an area that your library would like to work on. Each guide will give an introduction to the topic and several exercises for you to implement privacy changes at your library. With guides in hand, you will have the skills needed to communicate on privacy topics and advocate for privacy-protecting practices and policies. Guides may be printed and written in, purchased as a set from the ALA Store (coming soon), or used through the interactive website.
In 2018, Bonnie Tijerina and Michael Zimmer gathered librarians at various conferences and held a culminating event called “Library Values and Privacy Summit” to learn where the field is regarding privacy. What came out of the convenings and subsequent report was that librarians cared about privacy issues but didn't always know what they had the power to do practically. Some felt they weren’t “techy” enough or they weren’t in a high enough position of influence, while others felt they didn’t have the time or the basic step-by-step guide to help them make even a small difference.
At the same time, and while working on ALA’s IFC Privacy Subcommittee, Erin Berman regularly heard library workers expressing frustration at the lack of practical privacy tools. Those that had a high level of interest, time, and funding could invest in learning. Those without didn’t do much. People were asking for hands-on, simple-to-use guides. They didn’t necessarily want to be privacy experts but wanted to be able to take concrete steps towards addressing privacy issues. This led to Bonnie and Erin partnering to create the Privacy Field Guides.
Erin Berman is a fierce privacy advocate, leading the American Library Association’s Privacy Subcommittee from 2018 - 2022. During her time as Innovations Manager for San José Public Library, she published the book Your Technology Outreach Adventure: Tools for Human-Centered Problem Solving. Currently, she works as the Division Director of the Learning Group for the Alameda County Library in California.
Bonnie Tijerina is a researcher, librarian, and community convener. She is currently focused on creating opportunities for education and discussion within the library profession and beyond on the role libraries and librarians can play around the increasingly complex issues of the digital world. In that space, she has worked on several grant-funded projects around privacy and big data research ethics and is the co-editor of Protecting Patron Privacy: A LITA Guide. She is also the founder and annual coordinator of the Electronic Resources & Libraries Conference.