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Anonymous Library Cards Allow You to Wonder,
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Anonymous Library Cards Allow You to Wonder, "Who Was That Masked Patron?"

Author: Ben Ostrowsky
Publisher: Information Today, Inc., 143 Old Marlton Pike, Medford, NJ 08055-8750. Tel: 609-654-6266; Fax: 609-654-4309.
Edition/Format: Article Article : English
Publication:Computers in Libraries, v25 n6 p21-23 Jun 2005
Database:ERIC The ERIC database is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education.
Other Databases: ArticleFirstBritish Library Serials
Summary:
Like the Lone Ranger's mask, a good information retention policy can safeguard personal identity information. Librarians want to be sure that patrons will return what they borrow, and they want statistics that quantify the library's value to its community. Librarians also want to protect customers' privacy; they usually don't keep personally identifiable information unless they have to. Libraries must, however, have  Read more...
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Details

Document Type: Article
All Authors / Contributors: Ben Ostrowsky
ISSN:1041-7915
Language Note: English
Unique Identifier: 424986468
Awards:
Description: 3

Abstract:

Like the Lone Ranger's mask, a good information retention policy can safeguard personal identity information. Librarians want to be sure that patrons will return what they borrow, and they want statistics that quantify the library's value to its community. Librarians also want to protect customers' privacy; they usually don't keep personally identifiable information unless they have to. Libraries must, however, have means in place to protect itself from theft and damage, and most require your identity (verified with a photo ID) as collateral. In some cases, collecting personal identity information about customers is a dangerous activity for a library. It can lead to "information theft"--opponents in an election could expose possibly unethical behavior by the incumbent: fees that were waived as a courtesy, fines accrued for overdue items, or controversial books that he or she borrowed. In this article, the author claims that soon libraries will be able to protect themselves from problems of this sort by opting to let patrons remain anonymous. This can be accomplished by issuing borrower cards that use cash, rather than personal ID information, as collateral. He cites this example: If a privacy-minded user deposits $20 to get an anonymous library card, she can check out "The Terror State" without identifying herself. Her account balance is temporarily reduced by $15, and when the library checks the CD back in (in good condition), her balance is restored to its original value. This type of anonymous lending opens the doors to new kinds of users, protects the library from loss of materials, protects the borrower from loss of privacy, and protects both from the repercussions of a privacy breach. This article also discusses some of the drawbacks of anonymous library cards: (1) The card represents value that vanishes if the card is lost or damaged; and (2) A cash card does not address the needs of poor people. A sidebar in this article provides information about Horizon 8.0 software that enables a library to create "guest users" and issue anonymous, cash-based cards.

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