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Privacy? What privacy?

I recently became chair of the Tennessee Association of School Librarians Intellectual Freedom committee. As the committee organizes and identifies ways to help support intellectual freedom, one of our first activities will be promoting Choose Privacy week. I’m hoping you can help me plan this. What will you be doing?

Why is it important to discuss privacy with our students? I’ve been asking myself this question as I learn along with you. Fortunately, Charlene H. Loope reminded me to check out the Intellectual Freedom Committee’s post on the AASLblog information about Choose Privacy Week. In the blog post:

Angela Maycock, assistant director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, states, “Young people are particularly susceptible to the ‘chilling effect’ of privacy loss on their information seeking behavior. If students feel that someone is looking over their shoulders, they are less likely to seek information on sensitive or controversial topics in the school library. With Choose Privacy Week, ALA is reaching out to school librarians with resources they can use to engage students on privacy issues online and in day to day life.”

I don’t know how you feel, but I get overwhelmed with everything I need to do regarding teaching internet safety and meeting the advanced needs of my students. I missed the ALA webinar and had to download the slides to view on my own. You can view the slides and the archived version of the webinar.

Nanette Perez, Program Officer for the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom shares this link ( and information on the webinar.

“ALA offered a Choose Privacy Week webinar on March 31, featuring a panel of experts on “hot topics” in privacy – plus practical tips and tools for developing programs to engage library users.

Topics included the USA Patriot Act and reader privacy (presented by Deborah Caldwell-Stone of OIF); airport screening and surveillance (presented by Ginger McCall of EPIC); current research on privacy attitudes of young people (presented by Michael Zimmer of UW-Milwaukee); and how libraries can develop programs and events to start conversations such issues in their communities.”

From the website, I like the privacy revolution lesson plan for high school students better than the middle school lesson, so I plan to adapt it. Privacy Lesson for Grades 9–12: Unit/Lesson Title: Privacy Matters!

Why is privacy an intellectual freedom issue? I recently was instructed not to assist any students who came in on their own to the library to research “sexually transmitted diseases” particularly since they might see graphic images that were inappropriate for middle schoolers.  I was informed of my district’s policy on teen health and wellness education and am waiting for my district library coordinator to work with the science and health department chairs to come to a balance for instruction and support. I respect the privacy needs of my students. I need to find a way to balance an administrative directive with first amendment rights and the RIGHT TO READ, the right to learn, and the right to pursue information to meet personal needs.

There have been several headline articles in the Tennessean newspaper about the rise of STD’s and HIV in youth in Tennessee. How can I help my students who might be experiencing this if I violate their privacy and closely monitor their internet search terms? I am interested in your opinion and advice.


  1. Diane:

    First, congratulations on your new “chair” position. Interesting article and so critical. Thank you for sharing.

    Best wishes,
    Donna McDine
    Children’s Author – The Golden Pathway