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Librarians as Information Intermediaries: Navigating Tensions Between Being Helpful and Being Liable
Jessica Vitak, Yuting Liao, Priya Kumar, Mega Subramaniam
University of Maryland, United States of America
Librarians face numerous challenges when helping patrons—particularly those with low socioeconomic status (SES)—meet information needs. They are often expected to have knowledge about many different technologies, web services, and online forms. They must also navigate how to best help patrons while ensuring that personally identifying information (PII) is kept private and that their help will not hold them or their library system liable. In this paper, we explore data collected in eleven focus groups with 36 public librarians from across the U.S. to understand the information challenges librarians encounter when working with patrons who have low digital literacy skills but must increasingly use the internet to request government assistance, apply for jobs, and pay their bills. Findings highlight the thin line librarians must walk to balance issues around privacy, trust, and liability. We conclude the paper with recommendations for libraries to provide additional training to librarians and patrons on privacy and information technology, and we suggest ways for li-brarians to fulfill their roles as information intermediaries while minimizing le-gal, ethical, and privacy concerns.
Transformative Spaces: The Library as Panopticon
Gary Paul Radford1, Marie Louise Radford2, Jessa Lingel3
1Fairleigh Dickinson University, United States of America; 2Rutgers University, United States of America; 3University of Pennsylvania, United States of America
This paper seeks to describe and understand the nature of library experiences that both conjure immersion in different worlds, and yet relate to the physical spaces in which they occur. What does the library space make possible and what does it prohibit? Using Foucault’s account of panopticism to unpack layers of surveillance, docility and agency within library sites, this paper seeks to gain a richer understanding of panopticism and the library as a social institution. A dis-cussion of Foucault’s panopticism is followed by the identification of areas where application of his concept might be useful to scholars and practitioners seeking to understand the experience of library users in their interaction and encounters with information interfaces, both interpersonal and technological.
Boundaries, Third Spaces, and Public Libraries
Simmons College, United States of America
Abstract. This study relies on semi-structured interviews with twenty-four public library staff to understand how they navigate professional boundaries when providing information services to people experiencing homelessness. Analysis of the interviews indicated that public library staff perform work related to managing their professional roles and responsibilities, particularly in the context of the public library as a third, or transitional space. This boundary work refers to situations or activities in which actors construct, manage, and challenge professional boundaries, as originally described by Gieryn (1983). The results of the interviews show that public library staff perform boundary work as it relates to the public library as a third space, or transitional space, used by any number of community members and as I ar-gue, particularly by those experiencing homelessness. In the case of public librarians’ provision of information services to people experiencing home-lessness, the library acts a day shelter or transitional space, which has several implications for the public library and for the staff.