When a student clicks on a commonly used research Web site such as JSTOR, FirstSearch or WilsonWeb — and they do it as routinely as earlier generations picked up the Reader’s Guide to find magazine articles — they are increasingly under surveillance.
Magi, who researched the issue over the past year, found that many library database “vendors” are evolving in the Web 2.0 social networking milieu of Facebook and My Space by offering personalized features that capture student research patterns or browsing results. That information, which over time can amount to a personal dossier, has commercial value.
Magi’s findings will appear in College and Research Libraries, a professional journal. She has won national awards for publicizing the dangers to library patrons of the 2001 Patriot Act, which allowed federal agents, acting on no more than a hunch, to scrutinize borrowing records looking for suspicious interests and forbade librarians from alerting the targets.