Rights to privacy and freedom of expression in public libraries: squaring the circle

David McMenemy

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This paper highlights some of the tensions faced in public libraries in the United Kingdom between the desires to support patrons’ rights to privacy and freedom of expressions, versus the reality of modern practice. Considering both privacy and freedom of expression as ethical concepts, it then discusses some examples from the UK where the tensions between privacy and freedom of expression manifest in practice, including around filtering and government initiatives to tackle extremism, as well as issues around cloud storage of user data. It concludes with a discussion on how public libraries and the profession in the UK must struggle to balance the competing interests of patrons and the state, and encourages the profession to address the tensions head on by regular and rigorous debate as to the issues.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2016
EventIFLA World Library and Information Congress: 82nd IFLA General Conference and Assembly - Greater Columbus Convention Center, Columbus, United States
Duration: 13 Aug 201619 Aug 2016
Conference number: 82


ConferenceIFLA World Library and Information Congress
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • privacy
  • ethics
  • freedom of expression
  • public libraries
  • human rights
  • data protection
  • internet filtering


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