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"Anonymity is as important for librarians to understand, support, and promote as privacy."

Read an interview with the authors now!

Series Editor: Miguel A. Figueroa, Director, Center for the Future of Libraries


Formally launched in 2014, ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries works to identify emerging trends relevant to libraries and the communities they serve, promote futuring and innovation techniques to help librarians and library professionals shape their future, and build connections with experts and innovative thinkers to help libraries address emerging issues. The first volume in a new series presented in partnership with the Center, Anonymity explores the roles and ramifications of this hallmark of technology. In the virtual realm, anonymity means that such bedrock values of librarianship as privacy, free speech, and intellectual freedom coexist uneasily with the proliferation of fake news, sexist and racist sentiments, and repugnant ideologies. As trusted guardians of knowledge, libraries and librarians can fill a growing need for reputable information and open dialog. Macrina, founder and director of the Library Freedom Project and a core contributor to the Tor Project, along with co-author Cooper, whose important advocacy in archives informs this work, discuss apps (Whisper, Secret) and forums (Reddit) that promote anonymity as a central feature, even as so-called true anonymity remains elusive because of pervasive user data tracking. They also examine how anonymous content has become valuable fodder for both news organizations and clickbait websites. Will the rise of anonymity and the vulnerabilities it exposes, especially for governments and businesses, lead to a movement against it? Or have our society and its technology passed the point of no return? Bringing issues and viewpoints from outside the profession into the conversation, this book will encourage libraries to think about anonymity and what it means for the future of our institutions.

Learn more about the Library Futures series, presented by ALA Neal-Schuman in partnership with the ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries.

Foreword by Miguel A. Figueroa

Understanding Anonymity

  • The New Normal
  • People You May Know    
  • How Do You Get to Be Anonymous?
  • Anonymity Loves Company
  • Adversaries        

Anonymity in Libraries

  • Librarians Fight Back
  • Professional Values in Practice
  • Anonymity and Privacy Inequalities
  • Privacy Policies and Procedures: A Starting Point for Anonymity
  • Anonymity Basics
  • Anonymity Tech
  • Anonymity Literacy

For the Future

  • What Does Anonymity Look Like in the Library of the Future?
  • Advocacy
  • Education
  • Space
  • Technology
  • Professional Development
  • Security       

Notes and Resources

Alison Macrina

Along with founding the Library Freedom Project, Alison Macrina is a librarian, internet activist, and a core contributor to The Tor Project. Her work aims to connect privacy and surveillance to larger struggles for justice. She has been awarded the 2020 LITA/Library Hi Tech Award,  the Free Software Foundation’s Award for Social Benefit, and the New York Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Award, and she was a Library Journal Mover & Shaker.

Talya Cooper

Talya Cooper is an archivist based in New York City. Previously, she was the digital archivist at the Intercept, where she managed the Snowden archive, and the archive manager at StoryCorps. She has written and presented about the intersections of archival ethics, privacy, and security.

"Thought-provoking ... A must-read introduction for anyone seeking to get up-to-speed on the many ways that our patrons' anonymity needs to be recognized and protected."
— Online Searcher

"It is packed with useful information. Essential for any library."
— Catholic Library World