Just What Does Someone Have to Do to Gain Access to a Computer in the Library?

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Gillian (Jill) D. Ellern, Systems Librarian (Creator)
Robin Hitch, Technology Support Analyst (Contributor)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site: http://library.wcu.edu/


There is a clash of principles between protecting privacy and that of protecting security that can reach an impasse between libraries, and their IT departments and academic administrations over the authentication issues with PCs in the public area of the library.

This is not a new issue. Decreasing budgets; increasing legislation, such as the Patriot Act, CALEA; new licensing agreements for specialized software and web resource; allowing access to secured campus storage; and increased user traffic that requires the need to control the use of its limited computer resources have all made authentication progressively attractive and necessary.

But authentication comes at a high price for librarians. There are ethical dilemmas that come in direct conflict with some basic librarian ethics. In particular, authentication creates a number of issues including patron privacy because it makes possible to collect, review and use data; freedom of inquiry because it could limit or at least put a damper on a patron’s research interests; increasing the complexity of using public area machines that can create barriers for access as well as be frustrating and time consuming; and open access needs for the public or guest users because these unaffiliated users often have limited access in segregated locations.

While open or anonymous access isn’t a complete safeguard for all these ethical dilemmas, it does help create an environment of free, private and open access equivalent to what is currently the situation with the book collection in most libraries.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2012

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