Week 12: Teens and Kids Twitter Chat Reflection

Kate Davis triggered a thread in this week’s twitter chat on children and teenagers in libraries that caught my interest due to the question that started it.

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This prompted several responses from the class.

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After this exchange, I wanted to explore teenage user privacy and rights in libraries.  I strongly felt in the aforementioned situation that a librarian should not say anything due to knowing nothing about the patron’s life outside the library and not knowing how the patron’s parents may react to the news. According to Beyond Blue, LGBTIA people can face doubly the amount abuse, bullying and violence that hetrosexual people experience. Alexander Sparks has brought up the importance of libraries for LGBTIA people as places of education. If a young teenager has come to the library rather than talk to another person, it may mean this is their preferred way of learning more. Borrowing a book about coming out is also not a clear-cut sign that the borrower is gay or lesbian.

User privacy for patrons of all ages has been sometimes been strongly contentious throughout the recent decade. In America, the FBI requested patrons’ borrowing records from libraries under the Patriot Act. Librarians were placed under a gag order and left unable to talk about what had been asked of them. In Portland in 2005, a state senator introduced a bill where confidentiality would only be granted to those over 18 years of age using the library. Anyone below 18 could then have their parents check their borrowing record and see what they had. The article’s author goes on to argue this would discourage teens from using the library.

In Australia, the ALIA Privacy Guidelines state that a library should only gather patron information when it is necessary and librarians should not give away patron information or related information without personal information of clients ‘without a warrant, a court order, or an authoritative document from the law enforcement agency’.

Libraries cannot break the law by allowing underage users to borrow R18+ movies. In the hypothetical case Kate stated, the young teen is not looking at or trying to access illegal material or material that explicitly rated for older patrons. As no rules are being broken, further action on the librarian’s behalf therefore risks the subjective opinion of the librarian becoming involved. Inmany cases such as the Logan City Council Library, the collection development policy specifically states that parents are responsible for what their children view and borrow while at the library. Is it the place of the librarian to act as their parent?

Teenage users of libraries have rights the same as adults and deserve to feel welcome in library spaces too, as can be seen in this passionate article from Christine Dalgetty, who writes that Libraries are about serving the needs of everyone, including youth, and it sends a powerful message when libraries identify teens as significant and worthy of service’. I believe it comes down to respecting the rights of the teenager’s rights to use the library as an adult would without being questioned unless they are being disruptive. I felt this tweet by Anitra Ross really summed it up.

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11 thoughts on “Week 12: Teens and Kids Twitter Chat Reflection”

  1. Hi Chloe , great post about integrity and privacy . Like you I have been really interested in this & found it interesting looking at ALIA & library policies . It is heartening to see teens being perceived as significant users of the library . Anitra

    1. Yes Anitra, I don’t think I realised how passionate I was about these issues of privacy for all library users until I really started researching! I feel the ALIA policies are great but I do wonder about the gap between the policy and it being put into practice in some libraries.

  2. Hi Chloe,

    Thanks for the interesting post! During the twitter chat discussion, I realised that this is actually a touchy subject as everyone is going to have their own opinion. I think it most cases, everyone should have privacy when checking out an item because I agree, you have no idea what this child’s life is at home. I wonder where they draw the distinction between 16 and 18, where anyone below 18 could have their parents check their borrowing record and see what they had. I would agree that this would discourage teens from using the library!

    1. Hi Ashlee,

      Yes, this is a bit of a touchy subject and I hope I didn’t come acrosss as strident or rude. I think the law was going to be for everyone below 18 years of age, and yes I think it would be a real deterrent for some people to use the library.

  3. Oh my god Chloe, this was such an amazing post! Unfortunately I missed the Twitter chat last week due to circumstances out of my control and in some ways I think that may have been for the best as I, like you, feel extremely passionate about this particular topic. I think you handled it perfectly!

  4. Hi Chloe

    This is a great post- your Twitter embed caught my attention right away! I think this is definitely a relevant argument to be made in libraries- where do you draw the line between child, teen and adult? I think that it definitely depends on the maturity of the child, but I agree with you that there should be some blanket privacy on a teenager once they reach a certain age. I also think the Christine Dalgetty article was great, it was really passionate and made strong arguments that teens are undervalued and don’t have a voice.

    1. Hi Chloe,

      Thank you for your kind words on the post! I think the line between child, teenager and adult is very hard to define. We do have definitive age restrictions on some materials eg. M15+ restricted films but what about other material? A lot of people have mentioned the frustration of being precocious readers and not being able to access certain material because they weren’t believed to be old enough. We don’t want to deny people access to resources they may enjoy.

      Everyone seemed to have loved that Cbristine Dalgetty article! I think it’s because she’s so sincere.

  5. Hi Chloe, I was also interested in this issue so presented the question, to the regional librarian at Logan Central Library: “What would the library’s stance be if a mother requested the reading history of sixteen year old daughter?” She was not sure about whether the Logan City Council’s Privacy Policy had any clear guidelines on this and it sparked a debate between her and the two casual librarians about teens’ rights to privacy. Unfortunately, I wasn’t provided with a definitive answer but I may have been a catalyst for the library to look into the issue further. Privacy of teens seems to be a very grey area indeed. This is a thought provoking article THE RIGHT TO READ: THE HOW AND WHY OF SUPPORTING INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM FOR TEENS (http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2014/the-right-to-read-the-how-and-why-of-supporting-intellectual-freedom-for-teens/). The author make some very good suggestions for policy and practice changes to ‘a huge difference to teens for whom intellectual freedom is both vital and tenuous’!! Highly recommended read!

    1. Lisa, thank you so much for sharing that article! It is a great read and I particularly liked the librarian’s ways to make the library more supportive for teenage users. I wish I’d found it when I was writing my post.

      It was also interesting that the librarian you spoke to didn’t seem to know what she would do in that situation. I hope they do look into it further.

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