Guest Post for Privacy Week: Child Privacy @ the Library
As I mentioned earlier this week in the Roundup of New Resources, this is Choose Privacy Week, an initiative of the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. The focus of the week is to inform Americans about their rights to privacy in a digital age.
I completely forgot to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but I didn’t want to forget to talk about Privacy Week. Frankly, I rely on the experts on this one, and the stars sent us one of our very own! I am very pleased to introduce Maria Burel, a newly minted Media Specialist who found us and offered to write a few articles about reading, literacy, and libraries. Today, Maria is talking about Child Privacy Issues and the Library.
If your children are older and have their own library card, it is wise to be aware of the library’s policy on privacy. Here are two excerpts that explain the American Library Association’s (ALA) guidelines.
- Code of Ethics, Article III: “We respect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought and received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired, or transmitted.”
- Free Access to Libraries for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights: “The ‘right to use a library’ includes free access to, and unrestricted use of, all the services, materials, and facilities the library has to offer. Every restriction on access to, and use of, library resources, based solely on the chronological age, educational level, literacy skills, or legal emancipation of users violates Article V.
What does this mean to you as a parent? In a nutshell, the library will not provide a parent with information on materials your child checks out or uses, even if that child is a minor. Public libraries are governed by the policies established by the American Library Association, who maintain that the libraries aim to provide “free, equal, and equitable” access of materials to all users, including minors.
While the vast majority of public libraries abide by the guidelines issued by the American Library Association, specific policies and practices may vary slightly from library to library. Library policies are available to the public, and if you want to see the policies in your library, I recommend asking at the Circulation Desk, where you check out books.
One way you can monitor a child’s selection is to have the child remain on your account. Sometimes we do this as parents to help keep track of how many books are out and their due dates. There is a school of thought that encourages children to have their own cards not only as a way to promote responsibility, but also to encourage them to use the library. Either way, as your child grows, he/she will likely appreciate the independence of having his/her personal library card. And they should have one.
So what CAN you do?
Be involved. Make trips to the library a family experience, then take the time to discuss the books your child is reading. Not only will these conversations keep you “in the loop,” but also allow for teachable moments when sensitive topics arise in the literature. Children’s books open the door for imagination and new knowledge.
Be friendly. Get to know your local library staff. Introduce your child to the librarians, especially in the children’s section. This does not mean the librarian will skirt the rules and make exceptions for your child. However, they WILL greet your child by name, make an effort to learn your child’s interests, and help him/her make appropriate selections.
Be partners. If you are dealing with a sensitive issue with your child at home, such as death, divorce, or an impending move, your librarian may be able to help you find some resources for talking to your child. In addition to adult literature, there are many children’s books that deal with these issues. Talk to the library staff about which ones they recommend for your child and situation.
Last but not least, be patient. Understand that libraries have policies and guidelines they must follow, just like any business. The staff will gladly work with you to meet the needs of you and your child, within the policies set by the library.
If you would like more information about privacy issues in the library, visit the American Library Association website at www.ala.org< and click on the “Issues and Advocacy” tab on the left side of the screen.
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