Choose Privacy Week, May 1-7, Spotlights Minors’ Privacy

Privacy Written in Tiles_17765606909_b7302fa71b_nIn 2009 the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom created Choose Privacy Week (CPW) as an annual observance to raise awareness of and provide education about the threats to individuals’ privacy. Traditionally observed the first week in May, for the first time, the 2016 CPW emphasizes the privacy of children and teens with the theme “Respect Me, Respect My Privacy.”

Privacy is one of the core values of our profession. The ALA Code of Ethics urges all librarians to “protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted” (ALA). The AASL Position Statement on the Confidentiality of Library Records states, “The library community recognizes that children and youth have the same rights to privacy as adults” (AASL).

Why is privacy important in school libraries? Traditionally school librarians have been aware of the connection between students’ First Amendment right to read and receive information in a school library and their need to feel confident that the topics they research or books they read will not be revealed. More recently, other threats to student privacy have occurred. As reported on the Choose Privacy Week website in fall 2015, a school district in Florida created a portal for parents and guardians to monitor remotely what their children and wards were checking out from school libraries.

In an era of “Big Data,” there has been an explosion in the collection of student data in schools to monitor student progress and customize students’ learning experiences. As a result, privacy advocates are voicing concerns over the use, retention, and dissemination of students’ personally identifiable information. In 2014, the Data Quality Campaign and the Consortium for School Networking, along with other educational organizations, created ten Student Data Principles for how student data should be used and protected in schools. In a different initiative, over two hundred companies have signed the K-12 service provider Student Privacy Pledge, a document with twelve commitments to protect and use student data responsibly (Future of Privacy Forum).

8926997166_8e63e5353d_m_privacy keyhole

During the 2016 Choose Privacy Week, there will be daily blogs about respecting individuals’ privacy and highlighting minors’ privacy posted on the Choose Privacy website. Bloggers and their topics include:

  • Michael Robinson, chair of the IFC Privacy Subcommittee and Head of Systems, University of Alaska-Anchorage, laying out the rationale for minors’ privacy,
  • Dr. Dorothea Salo, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Library and Information Studies, writing about privacy curricula,
  • Magee Kloepfler, a national board certified school librarian at Bolton High School in Connecticut, discussing student privacy in the context of an ILS shared by a multi-type consortium,
  • Neil Richards, professor of law at Washington University, discussing privacy as a form of respect,
  • Carolyn Caywood, retired Virginia public librarian and privacy advocate, writing about privacy and civic engagement,
  • Debbie Abilock and daughter Rigele Abilock from Noodletools discussing privacy and student data from a vendor perspective,
  • Annalisa Keuler, a national board certified school librarian at Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham, Alabama, writing on the topic of student data privacy with a personal perspective from her school district,
  • Connie Williams, a national board certified teacher librarian at Petaluma High School in Petaluma, California sharing what she learned about privacy from her students,
  • Dr. Kyle Jones, assistant professor in the Department of Library and Information Science at Indiana University-Indianapolis, explaining the incompatibility of educational data mining/dataveillance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act’s (FERPA) definition of an educational record,
  • Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, providing an overview of state and federal law relating to the collection of data from students and describing proposed legislation addressing student data privacy, and
  • Dr. Anna Lauren Hoffmann, lecturer and post-doctoral scholar, University of Berkeley, School of Information, writing on privacy, technology, and self-respect.

10532173145_cc6e1b797c_m_webcamIn case you missed it, on March 24, the ALA IFC’s Privacy Subcommittee and the Office for Intellectual Freedom presented a free one-hour webinar, “Raising Privacy Awareness in Your Library: Planning and Programming for Choose Privacy Week 2016.”  The webinar was recorded. Be patient; it takes a few minutes for the archived webinar to load.  The presenters were:

  • Erin Berman, San Jose Public Library, describing the library’s Virtual Privacy Lab with 7 modules to educate individuals about their online privacy.
  • Michael Zimmer, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, speaking on using films and discussion to raise awareness of privacy issues.
  • Jamie LaRue, new executive director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, discussing a school library story about a dilemma faced by a school librarian when asked for a record of what a student had been reading.
  • Deborah Caldwell Stone, deputy director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, describing resources available on the Choose Privacy Week website.

8521624548_fe3b21051d_m_privacy keyboardAfter Choose Privacy Week, the following resources will help you educate yourself, students, teachers, and administrators about student library and data privacy.

  • US Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC): Billed as one stop shopping, this site provides educators with a PTAC Toolkit containing a growing body of information in the form of “case studies, webinars, checklists, technical briefs, issue briefs, and other useful information” designed to guide educational institutions in collecting and protecting students’ data (US DOE).


American Library Association. 2008. Code of Ethics of the ALA.

American Association of School Librarians. 2012. Position Statement on the Confidentiality of Library Records.

Future of Privacy Forum. “200 Companies Serving Students and Schools Have Signed the Student Privacy Pledge.” November 12, 2015.

US Department of Education. “PTAC Toolkit.”

Image Sources:

moore.owen38. “Privacy Written in Tiles.” Used under Creative Commons Attribution license.

CaptMikey9. “Day 300: Hello NSA!” Used under Creative Commons Attribution license.

G4ll4is. “Privacy (keyboard).” Used under Creative Commons Attribution & ShareAlike license.

G4ll4is. “Privacy (with keyhole).” Used under Creative Commons Attribution license.



Author: Helen Adams

A former school librarian in Wisconsin, Helen Adams is an online senior lecturer for Antioch University-Seattle in the areas of intellectual freedom, privacy, library ethics, and copyright. A member of the AASL Knowledge Quest Advisory Board, the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee, and a KQ blogger, she is the author of Protecting Intellectual Freedom and Privacy in Your School Library (Libraries Unlimited, 2013) and contributor to The Many Faces of School Library Leadership (2nd edition, Libraries Unlimited, 2017). Email:

Categories: Blog Topics, Intellectual Freedom

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1 reply

  1. Read California teacher librarian Connie Williams’ blog on the Choose Privacy Week website: “What I learned from my students” at this url:

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