This post is an invitation to check the Research Roundup column in the Spring issue of YALS. The column focuses on advocacy, activism and technology and provides a short overview on three resources and some ideas about how you might integrate the findings and recommendations into your work with youth.

Although I wrote the print column back in January, the column’s topic could not be more relevant. As I have been re-writing this post, both ALA and YALSA’s efforts to create awareness and action about the cuts in funding reveal the different forms that advocacy takes as well as its importance for libraries. At the same time, Congress decided not to pass a set of rules that would give consumers more control over what happens to the data regularly collected by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). While the exact consequences of this decision are not yet clear, this setback highlights the many challenges related to internet privacy. Coincidently, also in January, esteemed colleague Dr. Chelton published a Position Paper for YALSA on the protection of teens’ privacy from government surveillance. The paper examined the potential threats of a set of FBI guidelines that recommend the surveillance of Internet use by at-risk students in secondary schools in connection with recruitment by terrorist organizations. Among her suggestions, I would like to highlight the following two:

  • Take advantage of technology that protects library patrons’ privacy
  • Identify and work with community partners who are also committed to protecting teens’ rights

These two suggestions are directly connected to this month’s Research Roundup column and the two projects and the researcher that I invited teen librarians to explore. The two projects I discuss offer a manageable starting point for information professionals; easy for newbies and for those already involved in this type of tech-focused advocacy. Hopefully they will also strengthen teen librarians’ knowledge about privacy protection and data surveillance issues to feel more comfortable creating events and activities for and with teens about these topics.

By Rhododendrites (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 The Glass Room and MyShadow.org

The Glass Room is a project created in collaboration between Mozilla and the non-profit organization Tactical Tech. For one month in 2016 the project took physical form in NYC and the space was filled with examples of activist projects, artwork and research that reflected and commented on online security, surveillance/privacy, and personal data. The digital space is still available and, for example, in the Resources area, one can find: videos that accompanied the exhibition, the SmartOn series from Mozilla, and the MyShadow and Me project that was awarded a BOBs award for Best in Online Activism.

Among all the resources offered, the one with the most practical and direct implementation is the Data Detox kit, a 8-day challenge that progressively guides you in the process to regain control over your digital self. After completing the challenge yourself, it is easy to adapt the Data Detox to one-shot sessions or a longer workshop for teens. Each of the eight sections comes with specific and easy-to-follow instructions to add or edit privacy settings in different aspects of your digital self and life. A Day Challenge after each section invites the user to take the work for that day a bit further. The Data Detox kit perfectly complements the work already advanced by the Library Freedom Project where teen librarians can also find a Privacy Toolkit for Librarians and a selection of resources helpful to use with youth.

 Data Privacy Project

The Data Privacy Project brings together an interdisciplinary team formed by academics, librarians, tech experts and activists and it is the result of an ILMS grant. Melissa Morrone, a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library and member of Radical Reference, is at the core of the project. This project maintains that libraries and librarians should be involved in discussions about privacy and surveillance because of our role in offering free access to many different types of technologies and connectivities.

One aspect of this project that may be of interest for a teen (or any) librarian is the Privacy Literacy Training, an initiative focused on training and developing online tools that showcase how information moves, is shared and stored online and, consequently, the importance of digital privacy and data literacy. Since I wrote the column, the project continues to evolve and grow, and now, for example, their Curriculum materials are online for any library that would like to conduct a training program for their staff. It contains a facilitator’s guide, slides, and handouts, and it can be remixed and reused under a Share Alike 4.0 Creative Commons license.

 Sonia Livingstone

Sonia Livingstone’s work focuses on children and youth and the opportunities and risks afforded by digital and online technologies. For LIS professionals, her research is especially relevant if they are working in schools or in close collaboration with education environments and families, as well as with younger teens, between 10-14 years old. For teen librarians already familiar with the work of danah boyd, Livingstone could expand their knowledge through her cross-national approach as well as multiple collaborative projects. Among her work, such as the 2016 book with Julian Sefton-Green, The Class: Living and Learning in the Digital Age, in the column I briefly discuss one of her last articles where Livingstone and Blum-Ross reflect over makerspaces and question a rhetorical shift from what they call a “voice” discourse to an “entrepreneurial” discourse, connecting these initiatives with job-readiness instead of creative expression and civic engagement. If your professional interests align with youth and technology and you would like to be more knowledgeable about advocating for youth rights and to better understand the often overlooked risks, I would seriously invite you to follow Livingstone’s work.

Finally, be aware that you are not alone in your community and there are many organizations online and in your proximity that have experience in resistance and advocacy. Visit these organizations and let them know that teen librarians are allies and are keen to support, collaborate, and spearhead their initiatives.


Lucia Cedeira Serantes is an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies (Queens College). Her research interests include youth media, reading and public libraries. Follow her @youthreading

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