anonymity, libraries, and websites

Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation about privacy that stemmed from part 1 of the ALA Techsource webinar Robin Hastings and I lead on social media (part 2 is on Dec 8!). Someone asked about posting staff names on their library website, so I shared what we do in Topeka – whenever someone posts to the site, their full first name and a headshot is included in the post.

Then a few participants responded that they use only first names, would never include a photo, privacy issues were mentioned, stalkers were mentioned, etc.

Certainly some of those issues are serious (especially the stalker stuff – yikes!). So I decided to hash through my answer with Gina Millsap, our executive director at the library.

Here’s what came out of that discussion: libraries can’t really base policy decisions or day-to-day practice decisions on one-time events or on worse case scenarios. We have to base those policies on a library’s strategic plans and on current best practices in order to best serve our communities. And then deal with the exceptions and single instances as they crop up.

A big goal at my library is to be very transparent with our community. For us, that means using first and last sharing our names and photos – on our name badges, at the desk, on the phone, and on our website. None of our staff can be anonymous when they represent the library.

And here’s something else Gina said that made a lot of sense to me – if we choose to hide behind anonymity, use only our first names, or use pseudonyms while representing the library (and yes, I have seen all of these used in libraries, even on nametags) … that sends the wrong message to our community. When we do that, the library is basically communicating a message back to the community. What is that message?

“We don’t trust you” or perhaps “we think you’re weird.” Or something similar.

Is that the message we want to send to our community? I don’t think so.


image by alancleaver_2000