Privacy Thursday, Jul 31 2008 

In today’s technological world where new information sharing devices and systems are developed on what seems like an hourly basis, the ability to keep ones personal information to oneself is becoming increasingly difficult. For some this is not a problem. For others, such as myself, it is of concern for I have lived long enough to see what serious harm can be done when personal information is used for misguided, immoral, unethical, or illegal purposes.

What is privacy? and Why do many individuals place such a high value on maintaining personal privacy? Roger Cook an Australian who has studied in this area for many years states that,” Privacy is the interest that individuals have in sustaining a ‘personal space’, free from interference by other people and organizations”. This is as good a definition as any.

As each of us is a member of society our desire for ‘personal space’ must be balanced by the society’s need for personal information in order complete the transactions needed for the society to exist. Taxes must be paid, living places acquired and maintained, health and welfare information gathered, essential functions of commerce provided for and so on. Each of these requires that we as individuals give personal information of one type or another to other organizations in order to function as members of our society.

Libraries are in the forefront of any discussion of privacy as they have historically protected the right of individual users to maintain privacy in what they read, view, or see in the Library setting. Library records in most states are protected by confidentiality statutes that require that a court order be obtained before the library divulges information concerning the individual’s use of the library.

Recently in my role as a member of the Board of Directors of the Intellectual Freedom Round Table of the American Library Association, I have been involved in an effort to begin a National Conversation on Privacy. As an initial step, small discussion groups have been held in all areas of our country to gather information from citizens on what privacy concerns they have. Information from these meetings is being evaluated and work is progressing towards the development of a format for this National Conversation.

Some of the questions asked in these small discussion groups are ones that all of us need to think about as we look at how our society influences our ability to maintain our ‘personal space’ in our daily interactions. Think about the following:

1. What is important to you personally about privacy?

2. What information about yourself are you comfortable in giving out?

3. How do you feel about privacy? What concerns do you have about privacy?

4. What types of information could hurt a person if made public?

5. What information about others do you feel you need to know?

6. What trade-offs or compromises would you be willing to make with your privacy?

Think about these questions and how you would address each one. Discuss this with your family and friends. I will keep readers informed as to the progress of the National Conversation on Privacy.

So long for now!

Programming Thursday, Jun 5 2008 

Thanks to wonderful community support and an outstanding staff, the Williamsburg Regional Library is known for the variety and excellence of its program offerings. The Dewey Decibal Concerts are completing another successful season. Patrick Golden, Program Services Director is hard at work on next season’s concert schedule. Patrick will post new concerts on the site as they are confirmed. Each year it is a delight to see new talented groups grace the auditorium stage as well as welcome old favorites back for another exciting evening’s performance.

Over the years Williamsburg Regional Library has been host to many exhibits on a wide variety of topics. These high quality exhibits have covered subjects as diverse as jazz, women in Virginia and George Washington. Beginning in June, the Library will be on of 40 sites in the country and one of two public libraries in Virginia to host a traveling exhibit on Alexander Hamilton. The exhibit will be available from June 26 to August 8 at the James City County Library on Croaker Road in Norge. Thanks go to Friends of Williamsburg Regional Library for funding the exhibit and the programming associated with it.

Our Youth Services Division is nationally known for the quality and variety of its program offerings. Regular story hours are held at both library locations. Our summer reading program mentioned in an earlier post is a highlight of the season for children and parents alike. The program calendar for this summer’s activities includes a one-man band, a ballet, and a wide variety of storytimes and crafts.

Our Adult Services Division has a popular Thursday afternoon film series as well as a Third Thursday program.

The Outreach Division provides programming for individuals who can not come to the library. This programming is provided to preschools, child care centers and continuing care facilities. Programming includes story-hours, book talks and holiday themed events.

Thus, when you think of the Library remember that quality programming is an essential part of what we offer to the community.

So long for now!

Adult Literacy Friday, May 9 2008 

Literacy is essential to effective library use and to true participation in a democratic society. Yet many of our adult citizens can not read, or write or are unable to perform either function at a high enough level to enable them to be effective members of society. Why? There are many answers, including a poor school experience, learning disabilities, and economic or social status. In today’s increasingly diverse society another factor is the inability to read or write English due to recent arrival from another country.

One of my personal joys is the experience that I am privileged to have as a member of The Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Program board of directors. This group has provided adult literacy instruction in the Greater Williamsburg Area for the past 33 years. This week the Program held its annual awards ceremony. It brings tears to your eyes to see individuals so proud of their achievements. This year 42 individuals were awarded certificates for completing 35 or more hours of instruction. In addition, over 200 more learners received instruction from over 200 volunteer tutors. This instruction enabled individuals to achieve high school completion, pass certification exams to retain or qualify for better employment, obtain their drivers’ licenses or improve their communication skills to become better functioning members of our community. It also enabled many to obtain their first library card and become regular library users.

The Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Program began as a way to assist employees of the College of William and Mary in obtaining reading and writing skills, and the program has been housed on the William and Mary campus since its inception. In recent years, the diversity of enrolled learners has increased. The 248 learners this year represented 50 countries and 32 different languages.

What does this have to do with the Williamsburg Regional Library? and Why am I making it a topic of this post?

As we use the library, or have this institution as a place of employment, we tend to forget that there are many in the community that are unable to take advantage of the tremendous programs and services found in the library. Lets us thank organizations such as The Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Program and the many community volunteers that are working hard on a daily basis to make the Williamsburg area even a better place to live!

So long for now!