Journal of Intellectual Freedom & Privacy

Special Issue: The COVID-19 Pandemic, Libraries, and Privacy Concerns Call for papers

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that many libraries do business, straining the abilities of libraries and librarians to provide access to resources and information, while maintaining ethical privacy standards. When the pandemic began, most libraries had to shut their doors, but they were dedicated to providing services to their patrons in any manner they could.

Much of what arose from this was virtual programming, which brought with it questions about patron privacy—from privacy and security risks inherent in the technologies and software being used to the necessity of collecting additional data to ensure effective and appropriate use of library services. Especially for more closed systems, such as academic or school libraries, logging into events became commonplace, but what happened to that data? Beyond the use of these technologies, libraries also had a professional imperative to educate patrons about data collection and digital privacy issues in using technologies such as web conferencing software.

Complicating matters was an urge to reopen the physical buildings as quickly as possible, bringing with it questions about contact tracing and health checks. This prompted the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee to release the statement, “Guidelines on Contact Tracing, Health Checks, and Library Users’ Privacy” on June 8, 2020—relatively early in the pandemic from our vantage point now.

With the approval of several vaccines in the United States and abroad, these issues may seem like they are falling behind us, but the response from libraries could serve us in tackling similar problems in the future. In addition, new variants of the virus could require a return to lockdowns, social distancing, and online programs. The discovery and spread of the delta variant has already caused the reinstatement of mask mandates in some areas and has given rise to questions about what autumn will look like. Beyond this, health officials around the world are tracking two other variants—delta plus and lambda—both of which have the capability of further disrupting society.

With this special issue of the Journal of Intellectual Freedom & Privacy, we seek contributions that explore issues of privacy in various types of libraries, stemming from new and modified services during the COVID-19 pandemic and, especially, the privacy implications for future library work.

Suggested Topics Include:

  • Protecting patron privacy in the virtual setting
  • The library's role in educating about digital privacy
  • Contact-tracing and patron privacy
  • Library employee privacy
  • How to evaluate library technology for privacy and security risks
  • Exposed problems with existing services
  • Patron privacy and online learning
  • Equality of access during the pandemic
  • Freedom of speech versus misinformation in the context of COVID19

The Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy publishes two kinds of articles:

Features: Original research articles submitted for peer review. Submissions should be 4,000-8,000 words (references included), formatted in Chicago Style (author-date), and anonymized for double-blind peer review.

Commentaries: Shorter essays, think pieces, or general commentary on topical issues, controversies and emerging questions for the field. Commentaries are typically 500–1000 words (references included) and formatted in Chicago Style (author-date). Commentaries will be reviewed by the editorial staff.

Submission details:
Submissions due: December 31, 2021
Deadline for decisions: March 05, 2022
Publication of special issue: Spring 2022

To submit, follow Journal of Intellectual Freedom & Privacy guidelines, using the “SUBMISSIONS” button at the top right of the home page. Please note “SPECIAL ISSUE SUBMISSION: COVID-19” in the “comments to the editor” section during submission. Questions should be addressed to the editor, Shannon M. Oltmann (