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'An absolute prerequisite': The importance of user privacy and trust in maintaining academic freedom at the library

Sutlieff, Lisa; Chelin, Jacqueline


Lisa Sutlieff


This research investigated the importance of user-library trust in ensuring vital freedom of inquiry in academic libraries, exploring its strength through comparison with attitudes towards the National Identity Card Scheme (NICS) within the various libraries of a large UK university. An online survey of students and interviews with librarians revealed student opposition to the NICS and distrust of the government. Measurement of pre-existing privacy opinions linked opposition to NICS with concerns about privacy. Students were confident in library data protection practices, although surprising discrepancies existed between user perceptions and library practices. Libraries successfully protected personal data from intrusion, but showed a certain complacency and reluctance to prioritize data protection that may be ill-advised given a climate of increasing surveillance. Librarians are advised to promote institutional privacy awareness as proactive data protection 'champions' in order to maintain the current 'privilege' they have of user trust. The adaptation of the Westin method for measuring pre-existing privacy concerns proved a more accurate tool than the original and may be of benefit for others undertaking similar research. © The Author(s) 2010.


Chelin, J., Sutlieff, L., & Chelin, J. (2010). 'An absolute prerequisite': The importance of user privacy and trust in maintaining academic freedom at the library. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 42(3), 163-177.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Sep 3, 2010
Journal Journal of Librarianship and Information Science
Print ISSN 0961-0006
Electronic ISSN 1741-6477
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 42
Issue 3
Pages 163-177
Keywords data protection, privacy, identity cards, academic freedom, trust, library policy
Public URL
Publisher URL


JOLISarticle6_final_rev.doc (179 Kb)

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