June 16, 2021

The Digital Library Federation’s Technologies of Surveillance Group Releases “Ethics in Research Use of Library Patron Data”

From the CLIR News (Council of Library and Information Resources):

Academic libraries, like the colleges and universities that house them, are under perennial pressure to demonstrate their value and impact. To this end, most libraries routinely keep metrics on patron use of collections, services, and facilities, but the growth in use of learning analytics has created significant new demand for data collection and analysis. This trend has led to concerns about patron privacy and the potential breach of professional ethics.

Energized by a 2017 DLF [Digital Library Federation] Forum working group discussion on higher education’s growing investment in products and systems that can track and correlate user behavior through data and technology, Yasmeen Shorish and Shea Swauger formed the DLF Technologies of Surveillance Working Group.

In an inaugural blog post, they wrote “A library’s adoption and participation in these systems is not without ethical concerns, and there could be consequences in terms of patron privacy that directly contradict some of the tenets laid out in our Professional Code of Ethics, such as the right to confidentiality and the prioritization of patrons, colleagues, and institutions over private interests.”

Earlier this month, the working group’s Professional Research Ethics subgroup published Ethics in Research Use of Library Patron Data Glossary and Explainerwhich is introduced in this brief video by Dorothea Salo, who led the effort.

Direct to Ethics in Research Use of Library Patron Data Glossary and Explainer
20 pages; PDF.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) 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 Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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