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.
This prompted several responses from the class.
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.