Friday, January 23, 2009

Why you shouldn't blog about patrons

According to this blog post from BNET, some employees of Tesco in the UK have found themselves in hot water for talking about customers on a Facebook page. A librarian also got dismissed for writing a book about patron client interaction in a library, even though she wrote under a pseudonym.

The truth is, every person who is responsible for hiring in a library googles their candidates to see what they are up to online. Usually, they are looking to see publications and what you have done for the profession, or as a student. They are looking for your digital footprint, the good stuff, but sometimes they find dirt, publicly available. And blogging about patrons, no matter how witty, is dirt.

It's in the ALA code of ethics that librarians "protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted". It doesn't matter if their query is ridiculous or if the person is smelly or nasty; we need to protect their privacy--unless a crime has been committed, and there are appropriate policies to deal with that issue.

And if you are blogging about it, even if you believe you are anonymous, people will find out about it. Librarians especially. You might think you are anonymous and do a few google searches to make sure your digital footprint is a proper fit, but I want you to go and search yourself in Pipl. Use some of the usernames you have signed on to online services for, like browser mail, blogs and social networking and see what comes up attached to your aliases. You might think you are anonymous, protected by a handle, but if librarians are good at anything it is following rabbits down digital holes. See where some of yours lead and don't make any online dead ends by violating professional ethics.

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