UX Librarian: November 2012

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Privacy at the Library

Did you know that libraries and librarians take patron privacy very seriously? We really do. In fact, many might consider libraries and librarians as one of the last lines of defense of civil liberties and privacy laws.

Last week I attended a most interesting webinar given by West Virginia Library Commission President J.P. Myrick on the subject of privacy and the law in libraries.

In some ways, this webinar was given in response to a case last month whereby the Elkins Library had some hard drives seized by law enforcement as part of a child pornography case that was being investigated. It turns out that a patron may have downloaded or shared child pornography in the library. Public library computers are equipped with filters that raise red flags when illegal activities occur on those machines and that activity is reported to the proper legal authorities.

It is my understanding that a library patron was arrested based on a computer sign-up sheet that many libraries maintain for statistics. (Incidentally, the Pioneer Memorial Public Library doesn't use a computer sign-in sheet as even this we regard as private information.)

So in regards to patron privacy we are not allowed to share what books a patron has checked out, not even with a spouse or another family member. Only the person who has checked out the books may have access to their own circulation records unless we receive written permission from that patron to share the information. Otherwise, the only way to get this information is with a subpoena.

During the webinar some librarians seemed incredulous that not even a spouse could know the books checked out by their partner. So, what if that book was, "How To Get a Divorce?" Now you may see why privacy is so very important.

Even if a librarian is sending out an overdue postcard the title of the checked out materials may not be printed on the postcard as these are not private correspondences. As Mr. Myrick said, "What if they have checked out "The Joy of Sex?" Probably, this is not a title that the patron wants on a postcard for all the world to see.

Even further, library volunteers or board members should not have access to library patron records. While this may seem extreme, in a small, rural library like Pioneer Memorial Library, we can see the need for privacy and confidentiality at all levels.

We want library patrons to feel safe that they may explore the world of knowledge without having to worry about Big Brother looking over their shoulder. Knowledge is, after all, power. Stop by the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, West Virginia and check out some books, and know that what you check out is your business but nobody else's.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Impossible Pronunciations and 30 Rock

Just a few thoughts to explain the title of this blog, Rural Librarian.

Why yes, I am a librarian that works in the rural community of Harman, West Virginia, population about 100.

I also love the television show 30 Rock, possibly the funniest show on tv at the moment. The writing is over-the-top funny and super fast. One of my favorite episodes is about the narcissistic character Jenna (played by the amazing Jane Krakowski) who is starring in a movie entitled The Rural Juror, a title that no one can pronounce nor understand. When I am feeling a little blue all my son has to say is "Rural Juror" and it makes me laugh! It is ridiculously impossible.

So, in starting a new blog I chose a title that is descriptive but also...a little funny. It's my own personal shout out to the comedic genius of Tina Fey as Liz Lemon and the hilarious acting of Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy. Over the years, 30 Rock has helped me laugh through many a dark day.

Cause yeah, even librarians love tv.

If you love 30 Rock and want to purchase the DVDs, you may click below to link to Amazon. If you buy the DVDs from this link, a portion of the proceeds come back to the Pioneer Memorial Public Library.

The Power of Reading When Powerless

So in case you haven't heard, Superstorm Sandy came through on Monday evening and stuck around for a few days leaving power outages, downed power lines, and lots and lots of very wet snow. It was pretty at first. Then, when I realized the snow wasn't going to stop it got a little scary. Then the lights went out.

Without electricity for four full days I had a lot of time on my hands to consider the hardships of our pioneer ancestors who came to West Virginia to find a little patch of land to call their own. Left without electronic devices of TV or Internet, I began to read.

Someone had recommended the book "Follow the River" by John Alexander Thom. This historical fiction tells the story of Mary Draper Ingles (1732-1815) who was kidnapped by the Shawnee Indians from early western Virginia. Ingles later escapes and travels hundreds of miles to find her way home. I had trouble with the detailed violence in this book and could only make my way through about 50 pages before I abandoned this book to move onto something a little more peaceful. (If you are braver than I and want to check this book out we do have it at the library.)

A book I have been meaning to recommend that I read recently is "The Midwife of Hope River" by Patricia Harman. Set somewhere in West Virginia during The Great Depression, I found this book to be real, warm, and very believable. The titular midwife is Patience Murphy, a new midwife with a checkered past practicing baby birthing in Appalachia. The way Harman has structured the chapters is such that we read the story of a birth and then read the journal entry that Patience records for each new delivery. There is not a lot of conflict in this book, but the various people that Patience encounters along her midwife duties are fascinating and realistic. And yes, Patricia Harman lives in West Virginia and has an extensive background as a midwife.

I moved onto "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern. (Nothing pioneer-like here, it is pure turn-of-the-last-century fantasy.) This book held my attention for two days and 528 pages. It is about a lovely and mysterious circus that opens only at night and without notice. The imagery in this book is amazing. All black and white with punctuations of red. My only complaint is that the conflict set up by the premise is never really fully realized. What is wonderful about The Night Circus is the imagined world of this magical circus that is populated by delicious treats, trained kittens, mysterious circus planners, and an exotic contortionist. Nothing super deep, but a fun ride none the less.

I am so grateful to have had such great books to read while we were without electricity. The power of reading allowed me to escape from the oppressive feeling (especially at night) brought on by the extreme change in our daily routines. And reading about Patience Murphy reminded me that even without electricity I had way more resources available to me than our pioneer ancestors did.

I am hoping that you all weathered the storm fairly well. We measured a full 2-1/2-feet of snow at our place just outside Glenmore near Elkins. There are countless trees down, power lines down, and also folks who are still without electricity. I am truly grateful to the power line workers who came from all over the country to help us out in the wake of this freakish storm.

All of the books mentioned here are available to check out from the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, West Virginia. Stop by and check them out.

You can also purchase these books from Amazon and a small chunk of the profits come back to the Library. Click on the links below to purchase.