Privacy, please! Libraries set the stage for individuals of all ages to choose privacy

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by Angela Maycock, Assistant Director, ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom

Do young people in America care about privacy? Prevailing conventional wisdom may suggest that children and teens have little regard for personal privacy, but research shows that they do care – and that they are also doing something about it. On social networking sites, for example, young people are sharing information but also taking steps to limit access to their personal profiles. Youth have a strong and vested interest in controlling how their lives are viewed and by whom, but they need good information about what actions to take, where to turn, and who to trust. Privacy Week

In this respect, young people are not alone. Individuals of all ages share concerns about how their personal information can be used and abused, both online and off – and they are looking for help to understand the issues and make decisions for themselves and their families.

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom established Choose Privacy Week in 2010 to help libraries work with their communities in navigating these complicated but vital issues. Privacy has long been a cornerstone of library services in America and a freedom that librarians defend every day.

Now in its second year, Choose Privacy Week will take place May 1-7, 2011, inviting library users of all ages and backgrounds into a conversation about privacy rights in a digital age. The campaign gives libraries tools to educate and engage users, and gives individuals the resources they need to think critically and make more informed choices about their privacy.

Librarians have a long history of protecting the rights of people to read, learn, and be curious – including the freedom to read and receive ideas anonymously. This makes libraries ideal places for people to think and talk about privacy today. And librarians, as long-standing defenders of intellectual freedom, can spark the sort of wide-ranging conversations in communities across America that will help people think critically about these amorphous concerns.

Privacy has emerged as a complex, important issue that Americans of all ages must grapple with daily. And while questions about privacy abound, clear answers are few and far between. In pursuit of those answers, individuals need to be free to ask questions about privacy and what they can do to take charge of their information. Choose Privacy Week is about bringing those issues out into the open and discussing them – and libraries are the perfect places for those conversations to take place.

Talk to your local library about what’s going on in your community for Choose Privacy Week and, for more information about the issues and ways to take action, visit