I’ve always thought that one of the troubles with librarianship was that there are always more great ideas and projects than anyone has time for or can get funding for. As a result we outsource projects to the people who have time and money and thus lose control over the end product. I have no idea if Library Thing’s open source Open Shelves Classification Project is going to wind up looking like a library product or a vendor product, but I’m curious to find out. As Tim Spalding says “You won’t be paid anything, but, hey, there’s probably a paper or two in it, right?” I haven’t seen much chatter, blog or otherwise, about this just yet but I’ll be keeping my eyes open. Whether or not this project it ultimately successful, I think it’s an interesting grass rootsy way of looking at ideas of authority and rejecting the top down let-us-have-you-contribute-and-then-sell-it-back-to-you models we’ve been working under.
I work occasionally as a fill-in librarian at a local public library that serves a community of about 5,000 people. This is the community I am moving to next month, up the road from where I live now, and while technically it puts me out of the “rural” designation, it’s still pretty rural. Last week and the week before there was a horrible tragedy that rocked the whole community. Short form: a local girl Brooke Bennett, went missing and her body was discovered a few days ago. The most likely suspect at this point is an uncle who is on the state sex offender list.
First off let me say that I’m quoting from news stories only. Our official staff position is “no comment” and I’m sticking to that. Here is why this is a library issue.
- The initial reports, when the girl was simply missing, was that she had met a sexual predator online via her MySpace page. That garnered the predictable media outcry as well as some very good stories about safety online.
- It also resulted in law enforcement coming to the library to take the public PCs. You can read the library director’s statements about this in this article in the Burlington Free Press. The librarians waited for a court order, and gave the computers to the police once they received one. The computers have since been returned. The library had an internet policy in place to guide their actions in this situation.
- As more details emerged it became clear that the MySpace angle was not just untrue, it was the opposite of what people had thought. The person who abducted Brooke had actually logged in to her MySpace page to try to create a fake scenario where she was meeting a “predator” when in reality she was meeting him. IP addresses from these interactions were given to law enforcement by MySpace and were, as near as I can tell, instrumental in helping them determine the sequence of events of this crime and narrow down the suspect list considerably. The older articles still reflect the “internet predator” angle when, like most abductions, the criminal was someone from the victim’s own family.
- And as far as data goes, danah boyd has a very good article about MySpace when DOPA was more on the table in 2006. One of her useful facts “Statistically speaking, kids are more at risk at a church picnic or a boy scout outing than they are when they go on MySpace. Less than .01% of all youth abductions nationwide are stranger abductions and as far as we know, no stranger abduction has occurred because of social network services.”
- The accused man is being charged, as of this writing, with kidnaping. This is because kidnaping at a federal level carries a possible death penalty sentence and is, I assume, a bargaining chip. The law regarding this is one that I wasn’t totally aware of “the 2006 Adam Walsh law — named for another abducted child — allowed federal prosecution of such crimes when they are facilitated by the Internet.” Worth knowing for any of us who provide Internet access to the public, I think.
- The library has set up a book display dealing with this very difficult topic — books on MySpace, the death of a child, dealing with grief — and encouraging conversations.
So, this is all incredibly upsetting and destabilizing to the community here. While I hope that you never have to deal with something like this at your library, there may be some instructive or useful pieces of information here that I felt might be worthwhile to pass on.
I’ve got one more privacy related post, but this is just a few things I’ve seen, noticed and liked. My goal for the summer was to catch up and stay caught up on RSS feeds, either through thinning my list, developing better habits or deciding to only follow friends and family, or only work people. I did a little of all of those and have been caught up for weeks now, even through ALA.
- Quick privacy-related link: why
- Speaking of Google, does anyone feel, like Sarah does, that they punk’d us?
- Ryan Dechamps tries out an EEE PC thinking about its potential use in a public library setting.
- Laura does some thinking out loud about the 2.0 aesthetic and what matters to us versus what matters to our patrons.
- David Lee King talks about Twitter best practices. Some very sensible suggestions for people who are newly starting out with Twitter, the how and the why.
- An older but good post from Lichen about a session she went to at NELA about library-wise IT proficiencies. That is, what proficiencies should we expect all library staff to have?
Now that I’ve gotten back from ALA and gotten some sleep, I’ve been ruminating over privacy topics some more. The panel went well. I also read Cory Doctorow’s book Little Brother on the way home — they were giving away copies at the panel — and enjoyed it quite a lot. It’s a YA just-barely-dystopian book about a terrorist-seeming event and the Bay Area lockdown that follows and how a group of tech savvy teens respond, and how others respond. It’s a good book.
During the panel, we were talking about things you’d want to keep private that you don’t necessarily need to keep secret. Sex and bathroom activities were two obvious examples. This then led to a discussion, more like hitting on a few points, about library records and how there is a difference between trashing them — so you can legitimately say “we don’t have any records to show you” — and obscuring them, say through encryption, so that the records are available to, say, patrons and yet not to librarians or, it follows, to law enforcement. I found this idea intriguing. Now that we’ve done a decent job making the point that patron library data is data that we protect, maybe we can make that protection more sophisticated so we don’t have to protect it by completely eradicating it. Maybe.
Anyhow, I got grabbed outside of the panel by Library Journal and I talked a little bit about this.
Also can I just say that Library Journal’s coverage of ALA was really engaging and worth reading this year? I haven’t been following ALA conferences in a while but I was surprised how much I enjoyed reading about this one in addition to attending it.
I enjoyed the panel presentation. Jenny Levine and Kate Sheehan were both there blogging along with me. It was fun to keep an eye on twitter/chat/email and still pay enough attention to manage to ask a few questions and just learn things. Here is a slightly edited version of what I was writing during the event. My apologies of the lateness of this post. As I was heading home my own local library where I am a sometimes employee was dealing with their own privacy and law enforcement issue. Tough stuff. Click through for details, didn’t want to put this all on the front page. Continue reading “Privacy Revolution – not quite live-blogging”