Welcome to this week’s Tip of the Hat!
Summer is over, and for many library workers, the start of the fall season means an uptick of library instruction sessions and programs. Academic and school library workers who already face the challenge of creating and teaching “one-shot” instructional sessions have the added challenge of moving these sessions online instruction during a pandemic. With this move to online comes the increased use of learning management systems and other online tools and applications that collect, process, and share student data. This increase in use translates into an increased risk to student privacy, particularly while interacting with the library’s online services and programs, and this risk might not be readily apparent to students who are facing many stressors and challenges in their first few weeks into the new school year.
Navigating “one-shot” library instruction sessions or other short interactions between the library and the student is not easy; however, these instruction sessions and interactions also present the opportunity to raise awareness about data privacy and security. One way to take advantage of this opportunity is to move away from the mindset of approaching data privacy in library instructional sessions as “yet-one-more-thing” to teach in an already packed session. That’s not an easy task for anyone, even for those of us who are privacy advocates.
In their article “Privacy literacy instruction practices in academic libraries: Past, present, and possibilities“, Sarah Hartman-Caverly and Alexandria Chisholm surveyed academic library workers and their experiences incorporating privacy into their instructional sessions. Out of 80 respondents, over one-third reported not including privacy topics in their library instruction sessions. Even those who include privacy topics in their instruction were not satisfied with privacy instruction at their institutions, with the majority being neutral or somewhat dissatisfied. This dissatisfaction stems from a variety of factors, with 80% of 55 respondents (n=44) stating that they do not have enough instructional time to cover privacy. This is the reality of many library instructors overall and requires a radical departure of how libraries traditionally deliver library instruction to students, as well as working with faculty and staff in developing and delivering this instruction.
What caught our attention at LDH is the second factor that almost 62% of survey respondents (n=34) identified as to why they are dissatisfied with privacy instruction – “Privacy is not a priority learning outcome for IL sessions”. What can make privacy a priority, then? Again, this requires a radical departure of how libraries approach information literacy (IL), but it also requires an examination of the priorities of the individual library as well as the professional frameworks library workers use to inform their approach to IL and pedagogy. While ALA’s Library Bill of Rights explicitly states privacy as a patron right, the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education only includes one mention of privacy concerning “issues related to privacy and the commodification of personal information.” Privacy is much more than the commodification of personal information, but the Framework does not reflect this reality. The lack of guidance in the Framework, as well as the dearth of concrete case studies of privacy in IL in the LIS literature noted by Hartman-Caverly and Chisholm, leave IL instructors little to work within a time where privacy instruction is more vital than ever.
Hartman-Caverly and Chisholm give their readers some guidance in their privacy literacy case study as well as their recommendations for addressing the barriers noted by survey respondents. The literature review of the article is another resource to glean strategies in bringing privacy into IL practices.
For those who are still struggling in thinking about how to incorporate privacy into an already packed lesson plan, think about this – what library resources and apps are you teaching to your students? Library systems and applications, particularly third-party apps and resources, also collect, process, and share patron data. Talking about digital data privacy and security in the context of using library services and resources can be one way to introduce students to privacy literacy while educating patrons about the library’s privacy practices. This approach to privacy literacy in “one-shot” instructional sessions can be strengthened by offering patron data privacy services such as the services provided by Cornell University; nonetheless, using the library’s own resources and tools when talking about privacy is a start for library instructors who are short on time.