May 26, 2022

NISO Receives Mellon Grant to Explore Patron Privacy in Library and Publisher Systems

Note: Since we write about library privacy a lot on infoDOCKET and I often speak on library privacy issues we’re thrilled to learn about this grant. Congrats to all involved including the very impressive steering committee. 

From Today’s National Information Standards Organization (NISO) Announcement:

The National Information Standards Organization has been awarded a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop a Consensus Framework to Support Patron Privacy in Digital Library and Information Systems. The grant will support a series of community discussions on how libraries, publishers, and information systems providers can build better privacy protection into their operations. The grant will also support creation of a draft framework to support patron privacy and subsequent publicity of the draft prior to its advancement for approval as a NISO Recommended Practice.

“Awareness and interest in online privacy is growing rapidly following a number of significant data breaches that have occurred over the past year,” explains Todd Carpenter, NISO Executive Director. “Libraries have long been stalwart advocates for protection of patron privacy, but as the complexity of libraries’ digital services has grown, the challenges of protecting that privacy have multiplied. Patron activity data is no longer held exclusively by the library, nor is it necessarily controlled by providers themselves. Compounding these problems is the tension created by the fact that real benefit can be achieved through the application of usage data as a tool for improving library services. How does one balance the opportunity to improve services or build new functionality that might improve patrons’ experiences against the need to protect privacy?”

“This delicate balance is one that NISO hopes to address through a process of engaging community consensus to develop a framework for addressing patron privacy in digital library systems,” states Nettie Lagace, NISO Associate Director for Programs. “By bringing together thought leaders and engaged members of the publishing, library, and systems vendor communities, this project will provide a forum for perspectives to be shared and benefits and drawbacks of various approaches to be discussed from multiple angles. Involvement of the publishers and vendors is particularly important as they have been less engaged in privacy discussions and their implications.”

This project will consist of three phases. The first will be a pre-meeting discussion phase, which will consist of four virtual forums to discuss privacy of internal library systems, privacy of publisher systems, privacy of provider systems, and legal aspects influencing data sharing and policies. Each of the discussion sessions will be a three-hour web-based session designed to lay the groundwork for a productive in-person meeting at the conclusion of the American Library Association meeting in San Francisco, CA in June 2015. Following the in-person meeting, a Framework document will be completed detailing the privacy principles and recommendations agreed to by the participants, and then circulated for public comment and finalization.

Direct to NISO’s Patron Privacy Info Page

See Also: More on Library Privacy Issues and Concerns
This post includes an embed of a panel/demo that I was part of at the CNI Fall 2014 meeting. The other members of the panel (Peter Brantley, Marshall Breeding, and Eric Hellman) are all members of the NISO patron privacy grant steering committee.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.