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 Explainer, which 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.