In IST 618 (information policy class), my group is working on a policy paper regarding the USA PATRIOT Act and libraries. In my IST 400/600 Information Design class, I’m doing our second “field study” on the self-checkout kiosk as an example of a human-computer system.
While doing some quick research to round out my knowledge of how circulation was handled completely without computers, I realized that, despite all the concerns with how easy it is to track and store information in the digital era, it’s actually easier to anonymize patrons today than it would have been 50 years ago in the paper circulation era. A patron’s name was written down on the check-out slip retained by the library, or patrons were assigned a number to be written down on the slip and kept track of in a ledger. Either way, it would still be …not necessarily easier, I suppose, to track down everything a person had checked out, but it would certainly be more difficult to purge their history, as well.