February 17, 2018

OCLC Study Says Libraries Overestimate Privacy Concerns

By Lynn Blumenstein & Norman Oder

OCLC has released an international research study, Sharing, Privacy, and Trust in Our Networked World, which has some sobering news for libraries. Even though 60 percent of respondents say they trust the library, only a small fraction of people consider library web sites more private than other web sites, such as search engines, social networking sites, and online bookstores.
Additionally, 382 U.S. library directors were surveyed; the report notes that they “have an inflated view of the information privacy attitudes among the U.S. general public, particularly related to privacy of library information,” overestimating how much others thought library usage was private. Observed Karen Schneider on her Free Range Librarian blog, “[T]he report stops just short of pointing out what a lot of us muse over privately and publicly, which is that traditional values about user privacy hold us back from a level of personalized service people increasingly expect.”
More and more people participate in creating content, often on social networks, OCLC said. More than one-quarter of respondents participate in social networking sites, while half of college students do so—a sign of even more growth. On social networking sites, some 39 percent share information about a book they have read, 57 percent share photos/videos, and 14 percent share self-published information. OCLC, with the help of Harris Interactive, surveyed more than 6100 people, ages 14–84, in Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the United States.
U.S. library directors, generally middle-aged and older, are “substantially” less likely to use social networking sites than the general public. Only 14 percent of directors think social networking is a role for the library. Both members of the general public and the directors agreed that hosting book clubs was the main social networking service libraries should consider if they enter that role. Other potential roles cited by smaller numbers of the general public include homework help, support groups, sharing interests, and education services.

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