Library Corner: Libraries Love Your Privacy

Libraries care about your privacy. In fact, libraries have a long tradition of protecting privacy, so much so, that the state of Colorado Library Law defines, in statute, who and how information about a patron can be revealed. Pre-digital age, this information was only accessible by the library to conduct library business, by a patron, with a warrant, or through a subpoena. 

As we move forward in our digital world, nefarious elements are determined to obtain information we collect digitally. A hack into our computer systems could obtain information used for data mining, identity theft, stealing library resources, or identity-based violence

Public libraries are committed to allowing individuals to “select, access, and consider information and ideas without fear of embarrassment, judgment, punishment, or ostracism.” (ALA, 2017) Library Bill of Rights, Article VII states, “Libraries should advocate for, educate about, and protect people’s privacy.”  Additionally, as a government entity in Colorado, public libraries are required to maintain reasonable security procedures and practices to protect personal identifying information.

Grand County Library District (GCLD) is part of the Marmot Network. Marmot is a resourcing sharing entity that allows patrons to obtain a copy of a book that might, for example, only be available from Mesa County Library or any one of the other 43 participating library systems. A simple click of a button from GCLD’s online card catalog is all it takes to request any of these far-flung resources. Marmot’s member libraries represent 883,000 library patrons, both adults and children. That’s 883,000 patrons to protect.

In the interest of keeping our patrons safe, GCLD and all Marmot libraries will be implementing passwords on library accounts. Effective March 28, a generic “default” password will be issued, and patrons will need to reset to a personalized, private password known only to them. Passwords can be changed and reset by logging into your library account or via email. If a patron doesn’t have an email, passwords can be reset at the circ desk.

GCLD recommends selecting a strong password. A strong password is key to protecting yourself and others in the digital world. Sure, you could stick to a 4-digit PIN, but that takes hackers less than a microsecond to crack. Using special characters, upper- and lower-case letters, and numbers can take weeks or years to crack, deterring most hackers from bothering to even try.

Modern best practice for passwords recommends using a passphrase with character replacement to make a seemingly common phrase more secure. Rather than choosing something like “library card” as your password, try “#L1br4Ryc4Rd”. Due to the combination of symbols, letter case and numbers, the latter would take roughly 138,000 years for a computer to crack. The dramatic nationwide increase in cybercrime, identity theft, and security around personal identifying information (PII) has brought the need for passwords to the forefront of our libraries. We continue to work towards protecting your privacy and appreciate your support in this transition.

Polly Gallagher

executive director of Grand County Library District

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