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TL v60n2: Wendy Cornelisen
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Tennessee Libraries

Volume 60 Number 2



It's My Opinion!

Intellectual Freedom

by Wendy Cornelisen


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Online Privacy

Privacy is an important aspect of intellectual freedom. The things people choose to read offer a glimpse into their life, and can often be very personal. We keep library records private so patrons have the freedom to read whatever they like, no matter where their curiosity takes them. It’s also the law in Tennessee (Tennessee Code Annotated 10-8-102) to keep private any "library records identifying any person as having requested or obtained specific materials or information."

For many libraries, that means not listing patron names on check out receipts or allowing family members pick up holds for each other. It can be frustrating at times, but it keeps their library records private.

With the internet, privacy gets more complicated. It’s not always easy to figure out what information a website is collecting about you, or who they are sharing that information. Many websites have a privacy policy that explains their actions, but it can also give them leeway to change that policy in the future.
There are steps that you, and your patrons, can take to safeguard privacy online. Start by figuring out what information is available online already.

•    Type your name into a search engine. If there are errors, get them fixed. The Electronic Frontier Foundation,, can help.
•    Encourage patrons to read the fine print of online agreements.  
•    Use privacy settings when they are available. Your address and birth date shouldn’t be available to just anyone.
•    Post reminders to patrons to “sign out” of websites they logged into, like Yahoo or Hotmail.
•    Clear the list of websites visited by clicking on the browser’s Tools and "Delete Browsing History".
•    Be mindful of what you post online. How would you feel if your mom read it?
•    Remember that the internet has a long memory. Check out the Internet Archive

There are options to protect privacy online. You can help your patrons make informed choices about their online activities to keep their personal information private.  

Wendy Cornelisen is Reference Librarian at The Brentwood Public Library, Brentwood, Tennessee.


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