Surveillance Cameras in Libraries – The Privacy Issue
Libraries are literary a warehouse of knowledge. Regardless of the subject, all one has to do is find a well-equipped library. Libraries are the “heaven” for all bookworms. Beyond storage of the volumes of books, libraries are also meant to keep them safe.
So How Does Surveillance Cameras in Libraries Make You Feel?
The temptation to take home that great book you couldn’t find in stores or haven’t finished reading can get anyone – even book lovers can sin in their heaven.
There you are a research scholar or maybe student. There’s no one nearby – just shelves on shelves of books. You have been taking notes and copies of the necessary information you must use to complete your assignment. It hits you, how much damage would plucking off “a few” pages do to this magnificent sea of books? You’re sure not much.
Of course, you get to finish your assignment but, did you for a moment stop to think of the next person who would have a similar need as yours? Here is where surveillance cameras become a basic necessity for any library.
Regardless of the number of librarians and library assistants, there always will be cheeky characters that will pluck a page or two off a book – it is practically impossible for the librarians to monitor every single user or book.
Apart from books, ultra-modern libraries now have electronic gadgets to better the learning experience. The risks practically keep increasing. Now, what are the solutions?
Using surveillance cameras to secure libraries
The obvious answer here is security systems. Ordinarily, these surveillance systems are installed to cover just the outside. However, they also need to b strategically placed inside the facility itself.
Actually, securing the inside is enough to dissuade even experienced an experienced thief from engaging in their “calling” within the library.
In many modern libraries, there are hidden surveillance systems installed. The Seattle Public Library is one of these establishments with 26 surveillance systems covering its downtown branch – both inside and outside. Administrators of the library have adopted a policy where the surveillance footage is only used for security of the facility as long as it is not related to use of the facilities and does not violate the discretion of the choice of readings by their clients.The flip slides – patron confidentiality or public security?
As the modern surveillance trend sweeps libraries across the globe, The Seattle Times reported on Des Moines’ King County Library move in the opposite direction – they are uninstalling their monitoring system. Isn’t that strange! One wonder, what has caused this bizarre decision?In the Seattle Times May 24, 2011 issue, they reported that,
The King County Library System is removing security cameras from its libraries, worried that supplying security video to law-enforcement agencies could compromise patron privacy.
The King County system was installed in 2006 as the administration sought a solution for vandalism, theft, and graffiti. It worked perfectly until sometime in 2006 when an issue arose with the local police department after a 77-year-old patron was attacked in the parking lot of the Woodmont Library.
The officers investigating the incident requested for footage of the incident – which the library refused – for identification of the assailants. The officers had to get a court order before they were granted the footage.
The criminal was arrested soon after the police viewed the footage. However, the controversy that followed the release of the footage prompted the library to reconsider the role use of the surveillance systems and how it undermined the privacy of their customers.
You bet the local police have a thing or two to say about the move, but the King County Library administrators stand behind their decision. This intersection between public security and patron confidentiality continues being a debate subject.
Looking at this objectively, security surveillance systems actively enhance patron security – especially children and the elderly. The cameras do inhibit damage and thievery of books and library gadgets. Particular attention should be given to places where valuable items are placed.
Places like restrooms and break rooms can however be kept free of surveillance for user privacy. Adoption of IP surveillance systems can enable remote monitoring of the library activities from practically anywhere.
Libraries may be forts of knowledge where we satisfy our hunger for information, but they are not safe from those with sticky hands.