Call for Papers: “Privacy” Issue of Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy (Spring 2017)

[UDPATE: The “Privacy” special issue has now been published. Details here.]

I’m pleased to announce I am the guest editor for the Spring 2017 issue of the American Library Association’s Journal of Intellectual Freedom & Privacy (JIFP). The issue’s theme is “Privacy,” and its publication will (roughly) coincide with Choose Privacy Week (May 1-7, 2017).

The full call for papers is below.

Call for Papers: “Privacy” Issue of Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy (Spring 2017)

Special Editor: Michael Zimmer, PhD (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) 

Traditionally, the context of the library brings with it specific norms of information flow regarding patron activity, including a professional commitment to patron privacy. In the library setting, a patron’s intellectual activities are protected by decades of established norms and practices intended to preserve patron privacy and confidentiality, most stemming from the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights and related interpretations. As a matter of professional ethics, most libraries protect patron privacy by engaging in limited tracking of user activities, instituting short-term data retention policies, and generally enabling the anonymous browsing of materials. These are the existing privacy norms within the library context, and the cornerstone of what makes up the “librarian ethic.”

However, these norms are being increasingly challenged from numerous fronts: law enforcement and government agencies continuously pressure libraries to turn over data on patron activities; Library 2.0 and related cloud-based tools and services promise to improve the delivery of library services and enhance patron activities, yet require the tracking, collecting, and retaining of data about patron activities; and given the dominance of social media – where individuals increasingly share personal information on platforms with porous and shifting boundaries – librarians and other information professions are confronted with possible shifts in the social norms about privacy.

In the face of these challenges, we are forced to confront the role of patron privacy as a centerpiece of librarian ethics. The American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights begins with the premise that everyone is entitled to freedom of access, freedom to read texts and view images, and freedom of thought and expression, and the ALA has repeatedly confirmed the importance of patron privacy as a necessary ingredient in preserving intellectual freedom. Yet, the increased integration of social media and cloud computing in libraries, combined with the increasing demands of law enforcement, has the potential to disrupt longstanding ethical norms within librarianship dedicated to protecting patron privacy.

With this special issue of the Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy, we seek contributions that explore issues of privacy relevant to libraries and information professions in our current environment. Topics might include:

  • foundations of privacy and intellectual freedom in libraries
  • privacy attitudes among patrons and/or information professionals
  • intellectual privacy
  • patron privacy and library technology
  • privacy literacy and education
  • privacy advocacy and interventions
  • youth/student privacy in libraries
  • technological approaches for protecting patron privacy
  • privacy law and regulation
  • global privacy perspectives

We welcome two types of contributions: 

  • Research Articles: Original, rigorous work of an empirical, experimental, ethnographic, conceptual, historical, socio-technical, policy-analytic, legal, or critical-theoretical nature. Research articles should be 5000-8000 words, references included.
  • Commentaries: Shorter essays, think pieces, or general commentary on topical issues, controversies and emerging questions for the field will be published by invitation. Commentaries should be 800-1000 words, references included.


  • Submissions Due: January 13, 2017
  • Peer Review Feedback: February 15, 2017
  • Final Submissions Due: March 15, 2017
  • Issue Appears: Spring 2017 (roughly timed with Choose Privacy Week)


  • All submissions should be emailed as MS-Word documents directly to
  • Manuscripts should be formatted in Chicago Manual of Style
  • Research articles will undergo double-blind peer review, and commentaries will be reviewed by the editor.

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