Protecting patron privacy is a core tenet of the ethics of librarianship. The American Library Association’s Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (2019) emphasizes that protecting the privacy of library users is key to ensuring intellectual free- dom because surveillance and monitoring produce a “chilling effect on users’ selection, access to, and use of library resources.” In 2005, librarians in Connecticut made headlines by standing up against the FBI and the USA Patriot Act to protect patron records (Cowan, 2006). Faced with a clear threat to privacy, these librarians sued the U.S. government in defense of their patrons’ rights. However, the daily erosion of privacy facing patrons today is often more insidious and the day-to-day work of protecting privacy in libraries is less visible.
This issue of the Oregon Library Association Quarterly is dedicated to stories of how library workers across Oregon try— and sometimes struggle—to live up to our professional responsibility to protect privacy. These stories come from all corners of our library ecosystem, from public and aca- demic institutions and from large and small communities. The articles presented here provide snapshots of some of the current challenges that libraries face around privacy, as well as some practical tips for dealing with these challenges. We have also included a short guide to relevant state laws, which we hope provides context for the issue as
Guest Editors: Ellie Avis, Multnomah County Library; Kelly McElroy, Oregon State University
Ellie Avis (she/her) is the Collection Manager at Multnomah County Library. She is a member of the OLA Intellectual Freedom Committee and Tech Services Roundtable, and has been part of the Library Freedom Project since 2019. She holds a Master’s Degree in City Planning from UC Berkeley and is currently working on her MLIS. In her free time, Ellie enjoys making and breaking things, DIY music, and riding her bike.
Kelly McElroy (she/her) is the Student Engagement and Community Outreach Librarian and an Associate Professor at Oregon State University. She has been a member of the Library Freedom Project since 2018. Kelly loves to get people talking about things that matter, whether as a facilitator for Oregon Humanities’ Conversation Project or as an officer for her union, United Academics OSU.