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June 1999, Week 3

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From:
STEPHANIE R WALKER <[log in to unmask]>
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Date:
Tue, 15 Jun 1999 14:23:06 -0400
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Hello Medlibbers!

A few people requested that I summarize the responses of my
request for information on video surveillance camera
systems in libraries, so here's the summary!

I received 20 responses to my query.  Of these 20, 17
were from U.S. libraries, 1 was from the U.K., and 1 was
Canadian.

Thirteen responses were positive, and supported the idea of
using video surveillance cameras.  Several of these stated
that they explicitly did not see a privacy or ethics
conflict.  Many cited the idea that the library was public
space.  Some mentioned that the only place patrons could
expect privacy was in the washroom (we don't have one in
the library, actually - ours is down the hall by our
clinics - so this eliminates this issue).  Seven
respondents were already using some form of video
surveillance, sometimes in combination with other security
measures such as mirrors, mirrored balls, card swipe
systems (for access after hours in places where this is
permitted - our library does not have after hours access,
as the entire faculty including the clinics is closed after
a certain time in the evening), or tattletape systems.
Some specific options were mentioned:  I got
two recommendations for using a Checkpoint security system
in combination with a VCR/camera system, and one
recommendation for a Kinetic system.  One person mentioned
that they had installed a Webcam that could be monitored by
the person responsible from anywhere.  Images would be
stored on a server.  Price quotes for systems ranged
anywhere from $500 to $2000 depending on what people were
using and their needs.

Two responses were just requests for summaries.  (Other
people requested this as well, but gave other information
too.)

The remaining five responses were negative.  Most of the
negative responses saw problems with either the logistics
of such a system or the ethics, or both.  As far as
logistics go, two people mentioned that monitoring might be
time consuming or difficult, two people mentioned the issue
of how long tapes could/should be stored especially in
light of the fact that we're often not aware of damage to
materials until much later, and a few mentioned the fact
that it can be relatively easy to avoid the cameras, unless
you're going to put cameras all over the place.  One person
mentioned the fact that people have been known to put tape
over the lenses.  Ethical issues bothered most of the
negative respondents; many felt that this was far too much
like having "big brother" watching, and also that patrons
were entitled to privacy.

Five people also mentioned that some places make use of
dummy cameras - either broken cameras or cameras that
aren't loaded with tapes or things that look like cameras
but aren't - to make people think they're being watched.
These were mentioned as being cost-effective.  But one
person mentioned that an institution had been sued by a
crime victim, because the dummy camera gave a false sense
of security.

I don't know what will happen here, as the committee that
would deal with this hasn't met again yet, but I will be
submitting all of this to them.  Many thanks to all the
respondents - you've all been most helpful!

Thanks!

Stephanie Walker
Acting Faculty Librarian
Faculty of Dentistry
University of Toronto
124 Edward Street
Toronto, ON  M5G 1G6
(416) 979-4916 x4371
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