As Celia mentioned in her last post, librarians have a long tradition of upholding library users’ privacy. It’s in our professional Code of Ethics!
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.
Code of Ethics of the American Library Association (last amended Jan. 2008)
We’re quite good at making sure that library users’ records and web browsing sessions are kept private (or not kept at all), and have a great history of standing up to legislation we see as infringing on users’ right to privacy (see the NYTimes article in which we receive the now infamous radical militant librarians label, then see us put it on a t-shirt). In general, people love us for this, but people also love social media, online shopping recommendations, and seeing what their best friends just bought on Etsy. There’s a weird conflict between the kind of privacy people say they want and the kind of privacy infringement they’re willing to put up with in order to have a personalized online experience. Libraries have largely stayed out of it, but recently I came across this really cool initiative that seems to have a good balance of user privacy and personalized recommendations.
Behold, THE AWESOME BOX:
This project is the brainchild of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab and is being implemented at not only Harvard but a select group of public and academic libraries in the U.S. The concept is simple: Think something is awesome? Return it to a special “awesome box” or flag it with an “awesome bookmark” and library staff will scan it and have it magically appear on that library’s Awesome Page. What you read remains private, but you now have a better sense of what your fellow-library-goers are reading, watching, and listening to throughout the year.
Plus who doesn’t need a little awesome in their day?
What are your thoughts on the Awesome Box? Would something like it fly at St. Mary’s?