Health and Privacy Guidelines for Libraries

From the American Library Association

Responding to health and privacy concerns during the reopening of libraries and recent discussions of video surveillance and filming in libraries, the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) and its Privacy Subcommittee have approved guidelines to assist library workers: “Guidelines for Reopening Libraries During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Guidelines on Contact Tracing, Health Checks, and Library Users’ Privacy” and “Video Surveillance in the Library Guidelines.”

Guidelines for Reopening Libraries During the COVID-19 Pandemic” — authored by the Freedom to Read Foundation’s General Counsel Theresa Chmara and approved by the IFC — answers frequently asked questions about upholding safety while offering library services during an unprecedented time. The guidelines address protecting staff health and wellness, and legal aspects of health checks, masks, sign-in logs, and requests for users to leave libraries. The resource also offers next steps in reviewing policies.

The IFC Privacy Subcommittee created “Guidelines on Contact Tracing, Health Checks, and Library Users’ Privacy” to assist libraries in maintaining user privacy as they face new challenges in upholding library workers’ commitment to not monitor, track or profile an individual’s library use beyond libraries’ operational needs.

As ALA does not have specific guidelines, interpretations or policies addressing best practices in the use of video surveillance in libraries, IFC developed guidelines for reviewing policies addressing different forms of video surveillance. “Video Surveillance in the Library Guidelines” is divided into six sections: security cameras, public records, users filming in the library, users filming library workers, law enforcement and library worker training. While the guidelines focus on video surveillance, it also provides links to resources on protecting users’ privacy and defending against government and corporate surveillance.

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