What’s New in the Library Fall 2021 Edition

Welcome to a new semester! The City Tech Library continues to adapt our services to support students, faculty, and staff whether they are on campus, working and learning remotely, or something in between.

Access Library Resources from Off-Campus

Use CUNY login credentials to access library databases, research articles, and ebooks from off campus. Use these same credentials to login to “My Library Account” on the library website. 

If your preferred name isn’t associated with your library account, you can change that! 

Books are Back!

Circulating books from the City Tech Library and other CUNY libraries are now available to request and borrow. 

To borrow books, you’ll need to search the library catalog, login with your CUNY username and password, and submit a request in advance. You’ll receive an email notification when your books are ready to be picked up and can retrieve them from the Borrow & Return Desk in the Library with a City Tech or state issued ID.

 Here’s a brief video on how to search for and request books from City Tech and other CUNY Libraries: http://cityte.ch/borrow 

Return all books in the book drop box just inside the Tillary entrance on the first floor of the Library Building. 

 At this time, print reserve textbooks and physical multimedia are not available for borrowing, and library study areas and labs remain closed.

For questions about borrowing and returning books, email: NYCCTCirculation@citytech.cuny.edu

Need Something We Don’t Have?

Interlibrary Loan is continuing to fill article and individual book chapter requests and deliver them electronically. ILL is great for scholarly research and course assignments.

Faculty and staff can also request books not available at CUNY through ILL.

Questions? Email us: interlibraryloan@citytech.cuny.edu 

Ask a Librarian 24X7 Chat Reference Service

Need help? Just Ask us! 

We miss seeing you at the Ask a Librarian desk but the City Tech Library is here to help you with your research.

Connect with City Tech librarians online:

Monday – Thursday 10:00am-7:00pm; Fridays 10:00am-5:00pm

If you miss us during these hours, you can connect to other librarians 24/7. We can help your research strategy, finding sources for a project, and evaluating information, citations, and more! 

Online Library Instruction for synchronous and asynchronous classes

Are you assigning papers or projects that require library research? Contact your library subject specialist to find out more and schedule an online library instruction session for your students. 

Are you teaching asynchronously? Share the library’s tutorials and research guides with your students. Use the Blackboard library module, or add the library widget to your OpenLab site, so your students can access library search tools. 

For questions about library instruction, contact Prof. Anne Leonard, library instruction coordinator.

Library Workshops Fall 2021

There are a variety of online workshops this fall for every audience that provide information and training to help you develop skills for success—from citing sources to creating a resume and protecting your privacy online. Explore the library virtual workshops and discover one meant for you. For additional information, please forward your inquiries to Prof. Nandi Prince

Details, dates, and registration information for workshops are on the Library Buzz Blog. 

In addition to our regular slate of workshops, we also offer scholarly publishing-related workshops and OER workshops for faculty to support faculty research, scholarship, and open pedagogy.

Support for Scholarly Publishing 

Complementing our workshop series, the library provides individualized assistance. Do you need help with any aspect of scholarly publishing? Our Scholarly Publishing Clinic is available for virtual consultations. Learn how to pick the best journal or publisher for your article or book, retain rights as an author, create a Google Scholar profile or search alert, use Academic Works and citation managers, and more. 

Office hours are by appointment the last Thursday of each month at 12 PM via Zoom or phone. Email Prof. Monica Berger to schedule your consultation and discuss your preferences for shared communication. Use this form to give us advance notice of your question. Don’t forget that you can also reach out to your subject liaison in the library. 

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Our OER fellowship program provides faculty with opportunities to revamp curriculum and make course materials more accessible to students. Learn more about OER at City Tech and our upcoming workshops. Reach out to Prof. Cailean Cooney with questions and contact your subject liaison for support with finding or adapting open materials for your courses. 

Library Collections

This fall, the City Tech library began offering electronic reserves on a trial basis. One of the chief aims of this pilot program is to assess the curricular support needs of City Tech faculty and the library’s ability to meet them.    

Print reserves are still unavailable at this time. Many books and textbooks are don’t make licenses available to libraries in electronic formats and copyright restrictions prohibit us from making scans of entire texts available. We can make limited selections of textbooks available through this eReserves pilot that adhere to Fair Use guidelines

We will be working with our existing print collection as university budgets remain precarious. We are not yet able to purchase new monographs and ebooks.

For more information, including the eReserves request form: https://libguides.citytech.cuny.edu/eReservesPilot 

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your subject liaison with questions about the eReserves pilot, to help with open educational resource alternatives, or with questions about copyright and fair use. 

Connect with Us

Have questions about library resources and services but not sure how to reach us? Want to make sure you get the latest updates about changing policies, new resources, and digital tools available through the library? 

Subscribe to the Library Buzz blog to get the latest in your inbox or follow us on Twitter and Instagram @citytechlibrary.

It’s Not November but It’s Voting Season in NYC

Graphic of a bus with "The City is Yours" stenciled on the side
The City is Yours, Alex Dunn, CC-BY-NC 4.0

May 28 is the last day to register to vote in the June 22 primary election. The race for mayor is just one of several offices that hold primaries, which will determine who is on the ballot in November for the general election. New York has a ‘closed primary’ system which means, to vote in the primary election, you must register with a political party to vote in that party’s primary. In a city where 70% of registered voters are Democrats, is the race for Mayor decided by the Democratic primary? A lot of experts think so. 

Too many New Yorkers don’t vote in local elections but they should, especially for down ballot races! Local politicians make policies and write and enact legislation that impact: housing and land use, education access, climate change, transportation, policing, funding for social services, and more. Aside from mayor, other offices on the primary ballot in June are City Council, Borough President, Public Advocate, Comptroller, and Manhattan District Attorney. Check out who is on the ballot and read some of the resources below to learn where the candidates stand on the issues that matter to you. 

After you register, you should make a plan to vote and look up your polling location. Can’t vote on June 22nd? NYC has early voting for the primary starting on June 12th. Find out when and where you can vote early

More resources about how to vote and information about how you can get involved are available on the NYC Votes website. Wonder about ID requirements, translation services, or think you or a family member might need assistance at your polling place? The New York Public Research Interest Group (NYPIRG), which works directly with CUNY and has an office at City Tech with student interns, has a voters bill of rights

Why this Race is Important

All local elections have a real impact on our lives but right now we have a lot on the table: many NYC families are struggling after the pandemic to keep up with medical bills, pay their rent, or find a new job; a lot of voters want to change our policing system, which disproportionately targets people of color; and people have vastly different ideas on how we should go about creating safe streets, resolving the homeless crisis, ensuring low-income residents have access to technology, and more. 

This year is especially important because a majority of current City Council representatives are term-limited, meaning we have the chance to elect a lot of new people who represent small districts, usually comprising a couple of neighborhoods. Not sure what a City Council representative does? A lot more than you might think! 

Ranked Choice

This election is the first in which voters will be able to support multiple candidates by ranking them in order of preference. Why does this new provision exist? Because we voted for it on a ballot measure in 2019–a lot of people supported ranked choice voting because it might make politics more civil and give a platform to outsider candidates who people might not otherwise vote for because they are worried about wasting their vote.  

Important things to know about ranked choice voting are it’s OK to rank fewer than 5 candidates, and it is not OK to give two or more candidates the same rank. Ranking candidates does not affect your first choice. Want to learn more? Check out the NYC Board of Elections website for information and frequently asked questions about ranked choice. 

Mayoral Candidates

Of course, the largest focus this year has been the (Democratic) Mayoral race candidates. And City Tech students might have a particular interest in their plans about public higher education. So far, all of the candidates’ official websites mention CUNY as essential in workforce development and a valued partner in creating more teachers, nurses, entrepreneurs, engineers, etc. No candidates specifically address the needs of the CUNY system after years of economic austerity and post-pandemic cuts that have left a lot of campuses under-resourced. Below, we’ve aggregated some information about the candidates so you can learn more about their stance on CUNY and other civic issues.

Candidates In the NewsOccupation & Experience
Dianne MoralesInterview with NYTimesCEO of anti-poverty nonprofit in the Bronx; long experience with youth/P12 education; only person to mention CUNY at the first mayoral debate
Maya WileyInterview with NYTimesFormer counsel to current mayor Bill DeBlasio; New School professor
Kathryn GarciaInterview with NYTimesFormer DoS commissioner; ran NYC emergency food program during COVID-19 crisis
Eric AdamsInterview with NTimesCity Tech alum! and current Brooklyn Borough President; Has identified as a Republican in the past; Former police officer and founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement who Care
Shaun DonovanInterview with NYTimesFormer secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the Obama Administration
Andrew YangInterview with NYTimesBusinessman and millionaire; Proponent of private sector partnerships in many areas of governance; has never voted in a local election!
Scott StringerInterview with NYTimesCurrent NYC Comptroller; free CUNY community college proponent; accused of sexual misconduct
Raymond McGuireInterview with NYTimesCorporate executive at Citigroup; lots of Wall Street investment in his campaign

Wonder what other New Yorkers think about the mayoral candidates? The New York Times interviewed people across the city to find out. 

What should the next NYC mayor do? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

City Tech Ebooks on Political History and Voter Rights

This blog post was written collaboratively by Profs. Anne Leonard and Nora Almeida

National Poetry Month: Yes, you can borrow these books!

April is national poetry month and if our campus library was open, I’d pick out some of my favorite books from our collection and some of new poetry books that I haven’t had a chance to read yet. I’d put them on a little tiered shelf in the front of the library with a sign that says:

Yes, you can borrow these books!

And I hope you would.

A lot of people think that poetry isn’t their thing but I usually think they probably just haven’t found a poem they really like yet.

Some of the poems that have meant the most to me have been poems that I’ve come across when I needed them, or that have helped me understand something about myself or the world. There are a few poems that I return to often. There’s a poem that I read when I’m sad and a poem for when I am nervous. There’s one I read when I can’t fall asleep. There’s this poem, by one of my former poetry teachers at Brooklyn College, which reminds me of my hometown. There’s this poem that I’ve read a million times that I love and still don’t fully understand.

There’s this video of the poet L.S. Asekoff (another former teacher of mine) reading a poem called Sparrow at a bar in Brooklyn that no longer exists that makes me think of all of the other places in New York that don’t exist.

And I usually read the Preface to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855 edition) on my birthday.

This is my favorite part:

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body. . . .

This year instead of a display in the library, I thought I’d highlight a few online spaces where you can read and listen to poems (and watch videos of people reading). Here is also a link to a database of small presses that publish work by new and emerging writers and a link to Small Press Distribution where you can buy affordable books that support these presses.

Segue online reading series (videos)

Electronic Poetry Center

Penn Sound Poetry Archives (audio)

Poetry Project House Party (digital performance and publications…and also writing prompts)

New Bilingual Library Tutorials

This post was co-authored by City Tech Students and Library College Assistants Maria Barales and Ivette Perez.

We are glad to announce that we have new Bilingual Tutorials available to support students doing research!! We have translated and captioned several YouTube tutorials from English to Spanish to provide students another language option they may feel more comfortable with and to accommodate our large Hispanic/Latinx population here at City Tech. 

Our team at the library are currently creating more bilingual tutorials and resources to assist students!

One of the tutorials animated and translated by our library college assistant, Maria Barales, was the “Annotated Bibliography” tutorial.

Check out the “Annotated Bibliography” tutorial here:

Maria was not only able to translate the tutorial, but as a Communication Design major, she was also able to add animation! Maria followed a script in english and translated it into Spanish and created graphics from scratch using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Then she imported all graphics into Adobe After Effects to animate it which was challenging. Maria used recorded audio of her sister narrating the tutorial in Spanish and had to make sure the pacing of the animation and what she was saying was synched with the animated video. For the last step, Maria transferred the animated tutorial into Premiere and exported it as an mp4 and uploaded it to the City Tech Library YouTube channel.

Another tutorial we translated was our “Citation Vacation” webcomic which details the importance of citing your sources and shows how students can navigate the citation process. Our library college assistant, Ivette Perez, translated the entire webcomic into Spanish.

Check out the “Citation Vacation” tutorial here:

Both Maria and Ivette have also worked to add Spanish captioning to several other video tutorials and have created Spanish transcripts for the City Tech Stories podcast.

When approaching translating, it can be very difficult as Spanish consists of many different dialects and many English words do not translate well into Spanish. It’s important to also take into consideration that common English words are also not as common in the Spanish language and to try to find work-arounds for the language barrier. 
Check out our YouTube channel for more tutorials!

Library Workshops: Spring 2021

We’re offering a number of new workshops this semester so save these dates. All workshops will be conducted via zoom and registration information will be up on the library website soon!

Power Searching: what you need to know

Are you spending hours at your computer trying to find sources? Join us to maximize your searches! This workshop will provide tips to do advance searching and do it efficiently. We will also cover how to organize your results.

  • When: Tuesday, March 23, 2021, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
  • Audience: Students, Faculty, and Staff
  • Conducted by: Prof. Nandi Prince

APA Citation Workshop

This workshop teaches the importance of documenting sources when incorporating other’s research into your own. Learn the fundamentals of using the APA style.

  • When: Thursday, April 8, 2021, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
  • Audience: students
  • Conducted by Prof. Nandi Prince

 Use ZoteroBib to Create Your Reference List Quickly

Need a refresher on how to create a bibliography when you write? We can help. Learn how to export your completed bibliography to your paper. ZoteroBib generates citations and build a bibliography list in any of the popular styles, including APA and MLA instantly.

  • When: Monday, April 19, 2021, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
  • Audience: Students
  • Conducted by:  Prof. Nandi Prince

 Poster Design

Are you planning to do a poster presentation? Join us for this workshop to learn how to design an impactful poster! In this one-hour interactive workshop, learn how to layout your content, make your quantitative data pop, and review the best practices for a stunning poster design by judging existing posters. Finally, have an opportunity to work on your poster and get feedback.

  • When:  April 20, 2021, 3:00 PM – 4:30 PM
  • Audience: Students
  • Conducted by:  Prof. Nandi Prince

Algorithmic Autobiographies and Fictions Library Workshop

Ever wonder what Google thinks of what kind of person you are based on the ads you see? Does Facebook accurately reflects your true self? This library workshop explores how social media platforms and search engines create identities of our digital selves. Participants will learn about search engine and social media algorithms, how to access their ad preferences for Google, Facebook, and Instagram, and will then create a short story, poem, drawing, or other creative product about their algorithmic self. The workshop will conclude on ways to keep your ad preferences private.  It is not necessary, but it is highly encouraged that workshop attendees have a Google, Facebook, or Instagram account. 

*This workshop has been adapted from the work of Dr. Sophie Bishop (King’s College, London) and Dr. Tanya Kant (University of Sussex). 

  • When: Wednesday, April 21, 2021, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM
  • Audience: Students, Faculty, & Staff
  • Conducted by:  Prof. Junior Tidal

 LinkedIn and Resume Writing Workshop

Make a lasting impression with a potential employer. Your resume and social media presence are the place to begin. Join us to see how you can get the most from the work experience you already have and convey it. Highlight your talents and what you have accomplished already to create a strong resume. Build the beginnings of a professional portfolio with LinkedIn.

  • When: Date TBD
  • Audience: Students
  • Conducted by Profs: Keith Muchowski and Nandi Prince

Research Help for your Paper: Drop-in sessions

Are you looking for research help with that final paper or assignment of the semester? If so, join us on these dates for our special drop-in sessions.

  • Monday, May 3, 2021, 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM
  • Thursday, May 6, 2021, 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM

What’s New in the Library: Spring 2021

Access Library Resources from Home 

This past summer, CUNY Libraries migrated to a new, modern library systems platform that changed how we access library resources from off campus.

As a reminder, all faculty and students should use CUNY login credentials to login to library databases from off campus and to the My Library Account link on the library website.

There is no longer a need for students and faculty to activate their ID before logging into library databases from off campus. All registered students and faculty with active CUNY login credentials can use library resources.

We also wanted to highlight the preferred name option! Update your CUNYfirst account to ensure that your preferred name is associated with your library account.

Ask a Librarian 24X7 Chat Reference Service

Need help? Just Ask us! 

We miss seeing you at the Ask a Librarian desk but the City Tech Library is here to help you with your research.

Connect with City Tech librarians online:

Monday – Thursday 10:00am-7:00pm & Friday 10:00am-5:00pm

If you miss us during these hours, you can connect to other librarians 24/7. We can help your research strategy, finding sources for a project, and evaluating information, citations, and more! See you in cyberspace! 

Prefer to get in touch via email? Write to us: asknycctref@cuny.libanswers.com 

Circulation FAQs 

Have questions related to library materials? Check out our Circulation FAQs or contact the Circulation Department: NYCCTCirculation@CityTech.cuny.edu

Want to return the mountain of library books you borrowed last year? The Library book Drop has been moved downstairs to just inside the 60 Tillary Street entrance of NYCCT.  Any CUNY Library book, and CD, DVD, or VHS that is in a case, may be placed in the Book Drop. 

Library Workshops

This semester we’re offering some exciting new virtual workshops for students, faculty, and staff! Whether you need help with citations, an upcoming job search, or just want to learn something new (like what algorithmic autofictions are about), we’ve got something for you. Registration information will be on the library website soon!

Library Subject Specialists

Are you assigning papers or projects that require library research? Contact your library subject specialist to find out more and schedule a library instruction session for your students.

Teaching asynchronously? Share the library’s tutorials and research guides with your students. For general questions about library instruction, contact Anne Leonard, library instruction coordinator.

Beyond the Main Search Box

While the library’s main search box is usually the typical starting point, our research guides are a great tool to find discipline specific databases, ebook recommendations, and search tips. Find them on our website or embedded in your Blackboard courses.

Podcasts!

City Tech faculty librarians have been producing new episodes of the City Tech Stories podcast during the pandemic. City Tech Stories highlights news and happenings around campus. Over the 2020 fall semester, we talked about library services during the COVID-19 emergency, interviewed historian and educator Maya Marie about her work with the Kingsborough Community College Urban Farm, and discussed our favorite books, films, and music. The episodes can be heard through the City Tech Library blog, SoundCloud, or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

OER workshops / Updates 

O.E.R. workshops will be conducted remotely over Zoom. Part-time faculty who participate will be compensated at their hourly non-teaching adjunct rate for their time.

  • Introduction to O.E.R. & the Open Textbook Library
    Offered two dates:
    Wednesday, Feb. 24, from 2 – 3:30 PM
    Tuesday, March 2, from 10 – 11:30 AM
    RSVP via this form.

    Learn about open educational resources (O.E.R.) and how to get started locating open learning materials in your discipline, including the Open Textbook Library, “a catalog of free, peer-reviewed, and openly-licensed textbooks” developed at the University of Minnesota. Participants are encouraged to bring questions, and no level of familiarity with O.E.R. is required.

    Faculty will also have the option to review a textbook related to their discipline for a $250 stipend.
  • Peer Review & the O.E.R. Landscape
    Offered two dates:
    Tuesday, March 23, from 10 – 11:30 AM
    Wednesday, March 24, from 2 – 3:30 PM
    RSVP via this form.

    Examine existing and possible approaches to peer review, evaluating open educational materials, and scholarly engagement around O.E.R. creation. Participants will explore some current models from the Open Textbook Library, MERLOT, and Rebus Community. Participants are encouraged to bring questions, and no level of familiarity with O.E.R. is required.
  • Creating & Customizing O.E.R.
    Offered two dates:
    Tuesday, April 20, from 10 – 11:30 AM
    Wednesday, April 21, from 2 – 3:30 PM
    RSVP via this form.

    Learn how to get started with customizing and creating O.E.R. Participants will learn tips and best practices, platform publishing venues, and ways to showcase work. Participants are encouraged to bring questions, and no level of familiarity with O.E.R. is required. 

Need Something We Don’t Have?

Interlibrary Loan is continuing to fill article and individual book chapter requests and deliver them electronically. Ill is great for scholarly research and course assignments.

Please note: Because many other libraries are closed across the country, we may not be able to fill all requests, but we will try our best!

Questions? Email us: interlibraryloan@citytech.cuny.edu 

Support for Scholarly Publishing 

Do you need help with any aspect of scholarly publishing? Our Scholarly Publishing Clinic is available for virtual consultations. Learn how to pick the best journal or publisher for your article or book, retain rights as an author, create a Google Scholar profile or search alert, use Academic Works and citation managers, and more. 

Office hours are by appointment every last Thursday of each month this semester at 12 PM via Zoom or phone.

Email Prof. Monica Berger to schedule your consultation and discuss your preferences for shared communication. Use this form to give us advance notice of your question. Don’t forget that you can also reach out to your subject liaison in the library. We’ll be announcing this semester’s workshops soon so stay tuned!

Connect with Us

Have questions about library resources and services but not sure how to reach us? Want to make sure you get the latest updates about changing policies, upcoming library workshops, new resources, and digital tools available through the library? 


Subscribe to the Library Buzz blog to get the latest in your inbox or follow us on Twitter and Instagram @citytechlibrary.

Avoiding Plagiarism: A Workshop for Students

Decorative image

Plagiarism can be less obvious than you think, especially in an online environment. This workshop will give you practical information and strategies to ensure your writing assignments are plagiarism-free.   

The WAC program is happy to provide attendance lists for faculty who incentivize students for attending the workshop and require proof of attendance (when students register, they are asked to input class and professor names.) 

Faculty may request attendance lists by emailing wac@citytech.cuny.edu

2020 Virtual Exhibits Roundup!

Books featured in our Texiles and Fashion Technology Exhibit

City Tech faculty librarians curated several virtual exhibits on the Library Buzz Blog during 2020, featuring e-books and other online resources. Some standout posts included The Stonewall Uprising, Women’s Suffrage: A Long and Layered Struggle, and Textiles and Fashion Technology.

The Sustainability & Self Determined Food Systems exhibit examined the intersection of food justice and Black Power, and featured people rebuilding relationships to the land and reimagining food systems.

Access to JSTOR Primary Source Collections for CUNY

Through June 30, 2021, CUNY will have access to 4 primary source JSTOR collections.

  • Global Plants: high-resolution type specimens and related materials in this growing database showcases hand-selected materials and reference works from contributors around the world.
  • Struggles for Freedom: Southern Africa: Chronicles the liberation of Southern Africa and the dismantling of the Apartheid regime.
  • World Heritage Sites: Africa: Vsual, contextual, and spatial objects in 30 sub-collections, providing documentation of African heritage sites.
  • 19th Century British Pamphlets: nearly 26,000 pamphlets covering the key political, social, technological, and environmental issues of the 19th century.

If you have any questions about these or other resources please contact Kimberly Abrams at kabrams@citytech.cuny.edu.

Digital Privacy and Online Education

Drawing of Tree with a surveillance camera
“mather nature” by khalid Albaih is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

This week, I gave a guest lecture on digital privacy for about 40 students enrolled in 2 sections of an interdisciplinary Sociology course called Society, Technology, and Self. I’ve done guest lectures for this course in the past, both in person and online, and I typically assign a couple of articles for students to read in advance and start with discussion about a specific surveillance context before I dive into a workshop on the larger surveillance landscape and concrete ways we can protect our privacy online.

This semester, I decided to focus on surveillance and online education. We read and discussed a letter from the ACLU to a small-town school superintendent about surveillance and loaned devices but the conversation quickly got very personal and very meta. “I’m using a loaned device from CUNY right now. LOL,” one student posted in the chat and another responded ominously in all caps, “THEY ARE WATCHING.” Another student talked about her son’s experience in the NYC elementary schools and said that while she appreciated getting access to a loaned tablet, the school system’s use of 3rd party apps, which requires students to login and supply a lot of personal information to create accounts made her uncomfortable. 

We spent a lot of time discussing what I started calling “the 3rd party problem” and trying to unpack the layers of corporate surveillance that have seeped into public education spaces. Only one student, who had transferred to City Tech from another school, had been required to use an online proctoring platform for a test but many students cited commercial devices they had experience with like Google Nest and Alexa as similarly invasive. The difference is whether or not you have a choice, one student observed. And whether that choice is actually a choice. 

As we moved into a more general discussion about corporate surveillance in online environments and the way that our data–everything from geolocation tags and IP addresses to our faces–can be used without our consent, one student wrote in the chat: “this is terrifying.” I took that comment as a cue to move on to tools we can use–alternative browsers and plugins that disable ad-trackers and encrypted messaging apps like Signal– to protect our privacy. We also talked about the importance of advocacy and education as tools to not only protect ourselves, but to protect others as more of us work and live and learn online. I ended the session by discussing recent consumer privacy legislation in the European Union and in California that has started to, at the very least, expose some of the routine surveillance we’re subject to every time we visit a website. 

While ubiquitous digital surveillance online and the increasing use of commercial 3rd party applications in online education spaces is terrifying, I have been encouraged that more students and teachers and parents and administrators seem to be thinking and talking about privacy. During a time when many families are dealing with trauma and financial instability, more educators seem to be considering whether inflexible and expensive 3rd party technologies that are potentially causing harm and increasing anxiety, are worth the cost. As we work to create spaces for learning online that center values like care and mutual respect, a critical consideration of student privacy needs might be increasingly part of the equation.  

Digital Privacy at the City Tech Library

The City Tech Library has been conducting a privacy audit on what information about patrons are collected and how we can minimize that data to be leaked. This includes examining who has access to identifiable information. Since the library is physically inaccessible, this has given library IT staff the time to review what data is collected from our users. The library is creating policies to determine how long we keep user data and why we are keeping it in the first place. For example, library web forms give users the option to submit their names or contact information. This helps protect the users and also it prevents that information to be accessible by others. 

The library has also suspended the use of Google Analytics to track users visiting the library website and utilizes Matomo. Matomo is an open-source web analytics tool that gathers user web data. This data is used to improve the library website through user statistics. What makes Matomo a more privacy aligned tool is that the data collected is solely on the library’s web server. Google Analytics, on the other hand, collects this data to create customized advertising. 

By minimizing the collection of user data, the library is attempting to avoid surveilling users. The data collected from surveilling users can lead to inaccurate assumptions. Technology can provide insight into how people behave, yet it can be used for voluntary and involuntary nefarious purposes. This is evident in numerous news articles regarding bias in policing due to facial recognition or the use of search engine algorithms that enforce existing structures of white supremacy.  Libraries take privacy seriously, with librarians making great efforts in protecting users’ freedom of inquiry and academic curiosity. 

Learn More about Digital Privacy in Libraries and Education Environments

City Tech Library’s Privacy Guide

CUNY Libraries Privacy Statement

American Library Association: Choose Privacy Everyday

Kelley, J. (Sept. 2020). Students are pushing back against proctoring surveillance apps. Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Warner, J. (Nov. 2020). A teach-in against surveillance. Inside Higher Ed.

Watter, A. (Nov. 2020). What happens when ed tech forgets? Hack Education.

Stommel, J. (June 2020). Designing for care. jessiestommel.com.

Davidson, C. (May 2020). The single most essential requirement in designing fall online courses. hastac.org.