Public Libraries Can Lead The Way On Privacy

November 28, 2018

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  • New data privacy guide for library staff encourages best practice in data privacy to protect citizens’ personal information

Data and personal privacy have been much in the news this year, following the implementation of GDPR legislation and the Cambridge Analytica scandal at Facebook.

Now, the Carnegie UK Trust, CILIP and Newcastle City Council have launched a new guide Leading the Way – a guide to privacy for public library staff – to help the UK’s public libraries play a leading role in protecting and promoting people’s privacy.

Libraries play a critical role in promoting and enabling access to a very wide range of materials and open access to information. As a space where people access information online as well as offline, public libraries have the opportunity to go beyond minimum legal requirements and set a new standard in best practice for culture and action in how they support and empower users to make informed choices about privacy.

The new guide for library staff, published today, comes at a time when around one in two* people across the UK continue to use a library.

It has been designed to help library staff consider the kind of data they collate, hold and share about those who engage with their services; and how ‘privacy friendly’ their systems and resources are.

Aude Charillon, Library and Information Officer at Newcastle Libraries, privacy advocate and lead author of the guide said:

“Library staff facilitate access to information, culture and learning opportunities. We do this while upholding strong ethics, promoting freedom of information and freedom of expression. Public libraries are already providing digital skills training and protecting and promoting user privacy. In Newcastle Libraries we are teaching computer basics including online security and we have hosted learning sessions specifically on online privacy.

“The guide is an opportunity for all library staff to expand their knowledge and also to act more confidently and be more vocal about taking a stand for the privacy of citizens using library services.”

Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie UK Trust, said: “Public libraries are highly trusted, safe spaces at the heart of communities. In a digital age, when more and more of us are concerned about how our personal data is used, we are delighted to support libraries to play a leading role in advancing the privacy of their users”

“We hope the guide will spark discussions about how libraries should respond to the privacy challenge and help to develop and enhance how libraries approach this topic.”

Nick Poole, Chief Executive at CILIP the library and information association said: “It is essential that we maintain and build trust in public services, and the ethical and proper treatment of people’s data is central to this. As library and information professionals our code of ethics includes respecting confidentiality and promoting everyone’s rights to privacy. This guide comes at an important time, and provides practical support to uphold our ethics and make sure that libraries are trusted spaces that understand and promote our rights.”

The Leading the Way – a guide to privacy for public library staff guide has been designed to support public library staff in the UK – at any level of their organisation – to promote and protect the privacy of library users. Download a copy here.


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 *The Carnegie UK Trust’s 2017 report Shining a Light found that around 1 in 2 people use the library in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Carnegie UK Trust

The Carnegie UK Trust works to improve the lives and wellbeing of people throughout the UK and Ireland by changing minds through influencing policy and by changing lives through innovative practice and partnership work. The Trust was established by Scots-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1913.


CILIP, the library and information association, is the leading voice for the information, knowledge management and library profession. Our goal is to put information and library skills and professional values at the heart of a democratic, equal and prosperous society. CILIP is a registered charity, no. 313014.

Newcastle Libraries

Newcastle Libraries provide access to information, culture, heritage and learning opportunities for everyone in the City of Newcastle upon Tyne and beyond.