[Libs-Or] IFC Tuesday Topic: Protecting Privacy at the Self-Service Holds Shelf

Katlyn Temple katlyn.voight at gmail.com
Tue Feb 18 10:36:32 PST 2020

February 2020 Tuesday Topic: Protecting Privacy at the Self-Service Holds

Welcome to Tuesday Topics, a monthly series covering topics with
intellectual freedom implications for libraries of all types. Each message
is prepared by a member of OLA's Intellectual Freedom Committee or a guest
writer. Questions can be directed to the author of the topic or to the IFC

 Protecting Privacy at the Self-Service Holds Shelf

Self-service options for library patrons are gaining traction in Oregon,
including an increased interest in offering self-service holds for
on-the-go patrons. As librarians reexamine their service philosophies and
opt for more patron-centered services
considerations for self-service holds are often a part of that planning
process. When done thoughtfully, self-service holds can reduce wait times
and offer an increased level of convenience for library users. However, the
best self-service models should take patron privacy into account as well.

If implemented and managed poorly, a self-service holds shelf can
unwittingly display a patron’s reading interests and circulation history to
the public, undermining public trust in the library, and possibly
violating Oregon
law <https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/192.355> regarding the privacy of
patron records and contact information. Trepidation over the privacy risks
of self-service holds shelves
has existed for the better part of a decade, and is part of the reason that
some libraries, in Oregon and beyond, have taken time to adopt the model.

As librarians attempt to balance our professional values with
responsiveness to user needs and requests, what steps can we take to ensure
that our self-service holds shelves don’t sacrifice user privacy for user
convenience? Whether you’re exploring self-service holds for the first
time, or reexamining your library’s current policies and procedures, the
following practices have been recommended by the ALA
and other researchers
<https://journals.ala.org/index.php/rusq/article/view/3797/4151> to ensure
that patron circulation history and identifying information remain

1.    Use aliases or user account numbers, rather than names, to identify
materials on the self-service holds shelves. Many ILSs offer libraries the
option to assign or allow users to select an alias to help them
confidentially identify their holds on a shelf, or to print account numbers
on a hold slip in lieu of the patron’s name. Printing full names, or even
truncated names, without the consent of users, should be avoided on any
self-service shelving area.

2.    Refrain from printing patron telephone numbers or email addresses on
publicly viewable holds slips.

3.    Consider adding an additional layer of protection by storing
materials on the self-service holds shelf in opaque bags or cover slips, or
by shelving items spine-down in the holds area. This practice may be
especially worth consideration in libraries that serve rural communities,
where residents can easily recognize and engage with one another in a
publicly browsable holds area.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating the ideal self-service
holds model, but librarians can support their users, and each other, by
sharing their own best practices and offering support to one another as we
continue our shift to more patron-centered services.

Katlyn Temple

OLA Intellectual Freedom Committee Member

Assistant Director, Chetco Community Public Library
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