Privacy, Libraries, Patrons, and the Law eCourse

Privacy, Libraries, Patrons, and the Law eCourse

You must complete your registration in advance of the eCourse by following the instructions contained in the PDF download that accompanies your purchase. The download can be found on the final confirmation screen after you complete your purchase and may also be accessed from your account. Select "My Account" and then select the "Files" tab to see all of your digital downloads.

Item Number:
From:  February 3, 2020
To:  March 1, 2020
Delivery Method: 
Attendance Cert.
4 weeks
Estimated Hours of Learning: 
24 Hours
ALA Publishing eLearning Solutions
  • Description
  • Learning Outcomes
  • Registration
  • About the Instructor
  • Contact Us

The right to intellectual privacy—the right to read, consider, and develop ideas and beliefs free from observation or unwanted surveillance by the government or others—is the bedrock foundation for intellectual freedom. It is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association.

Librarians have long been committed to protecting the privacy and confidentiality of library users' information. But the past two decades have brought great changes to library service and the concept of privacy itself. New technologies, new and evolving laws and regulations, and transformative social change have made privacy a complex concept that can be difficult to master and apply.

While we may understand our obligation to protect privacy in theory, what happens when we are asked by legal authorities to monitor patron behavior? To respond to subpoenas or warrants? What are libraries' legal obligations when collecting, using or sharing library users' data, and how do international privacy laws like the General Data Protection Regulation or the Right to be Forgotten affect U.S. libraries?

In this eCourse, brought to you in collaboration with the Office for Intellectual Freedom, we will provide you with clarity and order on what can be a complex topic. You’ll learn about the legal framework for upholding your patrons’ right to privacy when it comes to both physical and digital sources of information. You’ll understand how federal, state and international data regulations apply—or don't apply—to the library, how contract negotiations can be a tool for protecting patron privacy, and how you can comply with the law while upholding your patrons' rights.

After participating in this course, you will understand:

  • Basic theories and structure of privacy law in the United States
  • The legal foundations for library users' right to privacy        
  • Laws regulating and protecting students' and minors' privacy in the classroom and in the library
  • Best practices for responding to law enforcement inquiries, court orders, and warrants
  • How to use policies, contract negotiations, and privacy frameworks to protect patron privacy

Upon purchase you will receive a registration PDF in the form of a digital download. This PDF contains a link to our Registration page and a password. You must download this PDF and follow the instructions in order to complete the registration. The download link can be found on the final confirmation screen after you complete your purchase, and may also be accessed by selecting "My Account" at the top of your screen and then selecting the "Files" tab. Confirmation with login instructions, reminders, and alerts will go to the email address used in the registration.

How this eCourse Works
The eCourse begins on February 3, 2020. Your participation will require approximately four to five hours a week, at times that fit your schedule. There are no live sessions. All activities take place on the website, and you will be expected to

  • Read, listen to or view online content
  • Post to online discussion boards
  • Complete weekly assignments or activities

Instructor Deborah Caldwell-Stone  will monitor discussion boards regularly during the 4-week period, lead group discussions, and will also answer individual questions. All interaction will take place on the eCourse site, which will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's recommended that students log into the site on the first day of class or within a few days for an overview of the content and to begin the first lesson.

User Requirements

Participants will need regular access to a computer with an internet connection for online message boards participation, viewing online video, listening to streaming audio (mp3 files), and downloading and viewing PDFs and PowerPoint files. ALA Publishing eLearning Solutions eCourses are fully compatible with Windows and MacOs.

Bulk Orders

This eCourse is licensed for a single user. For pricing on bulk purchases in excess of $1,000, please contact us for more information.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone

Deborah Caldwell-Stone is interim director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation. Before Caldwell-Stone joined the American Library Association in 2000, she practiced appellate law before the state and federal courts in Chicago, Illinois. She now works closely with librarians, library trustees and educators on a wide range of intellectual freedom and privacy issues, including the impact of new technologies on library patrons’ privacy and confidentiality. She has served on the faculty of the ALA-sponsored Law for Librarians workshops and is a contributing author for the Intellectual Freedom Manual.

Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF)

ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) is charged with implementing the intellectual freedom policies of the American Library Association through educating librarians and the public about the concept of intellectual freedom as embodied in the Library Bill of Rights, the Association's basic policy on free access to libraries and library materials. In order to meet its educational goals, the Office undertakes information, support, and coordination activities.

If you have any questions about this eCourse, please contact us at

At Your Service

Accommodations are offered based on user needs. For transcription or other accessibility requests, please contact us at

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