Should #librarians offer #digitalprivacy #training to their users?

The scale of the opportunity to train European library users on digital privacy is huge. According to data at in one year:

  • 4.6 million Europeans accessed the internet for the first time at their public library
  • 250,000 Europeans found a job thanks to internet access at a public library
  • 2.3 million people attended digital literacy courses in libraries

As part of their universal information offer, the Society of Chief librarians have provided training for 14,000 or 80% of public library staff to improve their digital skills (Source: Libraries Task Force Blog 11th August 2016).

A Pew survey asked:

Should libraries offer programs to teach patrons about protecting their privacy and security online? % of those aged 16+

Should definitely do 76%

Should maybe do 18 %

Should definitely not do 4%

In America it isn’t surprising to see opportunities for very practical training. For example:

Protecting your privacy on the internet: learn how to control your “digital trail” on the internet: manage cookies, including “super cookies”, the difference between session cookies, persistent cookies and third-party cookies; learn what information your browser reveals to websites and how this can be used to identify you (from an advert at Geneva Public Library District for a session on 21st April 2016).

In the United Kingdom web training in libraries isn’t necessarily provided by library staff. Instead, it could be provided by organisations like Barclays Digital Eagles or Google Digital Garage  And the question arises as to what the training actually consists of – whether and to what extent digital privacy issues are covered.

Matthew Beckstrom in his book “Protecting patron privacy: safe practices for public computers says that “…teaching patrons how to use the internet, but not how to use it safely is like showing someone how to drive a car, but not where the seatbelt is”. (Beckstrom, 2015, p31).

A white paper from Iron Mountain and AIIM “What will it take to be a NextGen InfoPro?” ( found that risk, security and data privacy topped the list of desired skills for organisations.