Library Freedom Project (for context)

  • How I began
  • Why I work with librarians: ethics and practice
  • Activities:
  • Partnerships
  • Victories (search "library tor relay")
  • Funding
  • Relationship to Tor Project

Library Freedom Institute

The Library Freedom Institute (LFI) is a privacy-focused six-month program for librarians to teach them the skills necessary to thrive as Privacy Advocates, from installing privacy software to influencing public policy.

Library Freedom Institute Meeting in CDMX - LFI Updates!!

A bit of context/background:

  • in 2014, LFP was started
    • working as a librarian... Snowden stuff happened.... BLM started getting bigger in US - rethinking surveillance & privacy: who it's impacting
    • hearing from ppl in the community who were interested in surveillance resistance
    • started as classes about Tor, free software, basic digital security (passwords etc)

Why do this work in Libraries?

  • Librarians have historical care for privacy
  • Libraries are the only place where you can get free computer help - computer classes are offered to ppl who have no access otherwise - lots of overlap here w/ groups that are already affected by surveillance
  • connected w/ ACLU
    • they covered policy
  • built travelling roadshow for librarians
  • making tails drives for ppl and letting them test them in the library
  • applied for funding from the Night foundation - $250k !!!! tears
  • involvement w/ Tor started around the same time - 2015 ish
    • Tor was based in Massachusetts at the time
  • workshops in english speaking countries (but also some other langs) - US, Canada, + more
  • 2015 - big victory!
    • teaching people how to run Relays in Libraries - got a library to run an exit relay - feds asked them to shut it down. Ended up getting lots of media attention (plus protection/help from the EFF & ACLU)
  • the privacy conversation in libraries in US has changed - now people are talking about Tor!!!
  • (side note: potential Tor booth at the American Library Association meeting?)

However, it's not scaleable for one person to do these trainings all over

  • another grant !!! $250k from IMLS
  • PLUS another $200k
    • (if you think you'll never get money for something, give it a try! you can write grants, too)

So, the idea for the LFI was to scale the LFP

Current format of LFI:

  • 6 month training program restricted to librarians in the US (only restricted b/c of funding)
  • primarily online
    • 13 librarians so far - 80% female, 35% people of color
  • partnership w/ NYU

Overall themes of the LFI:

  • threat modelling
  • harm-reduction
    • no possible way to address all aspects of a threat model... so how can we reduce the harm?
  • using user personas
  • completely free
  • anti-surveillance
  • normalizing privacy & security - making it normal and fine for the average person (learning about Tor from your librarian has a normalizing effect!!)

Problem: The first contact problem

  • if someone wants to leak documents to a journalist - that first contact is dangerous!! If your first contact is not safe/not encrypted, then you might be in trouble. Having Tor on library computers can help to solve this problem

Q: are we training these people to go out and train others?

A: Yes! Training them as privacy advocates - they can choose their focus within the privacy/advocacy umbrella

  • These librarians know their community better than we can. So they can make a curriculum/plan that best suits their community

Q: Are we targeting libraries of a certain size?

A: No - we're focusing on interesting geographic mix, gender & race diversity. Types of libraries are Public Libraries and Community College Libraries, b/c they tend to serve the communities we want to reach, and they don't have a lot of access to professional development opportunities

Schedule (

Each week: readings, discussion, assignments

Assignments: Figure out some way to bring this topic to your library! not mandatory every week - every third assignment is mandatory)

In-person weekend has been good opportunity to go over Tor & Tails, since we can go more in-depth

  • pedagogy of the oppressed

Some of the things we're trying to teach:

  • it's not just about privacy - you're gonna be an advocate in the community! You'll need to know how to talk to the press

This is also a really good usability research opportunity! Large and diverse audience

Future plans:

  • 3 more rounds, with 25 participants each
  • end deliverable: 80 librarians trained around the US
  • IMLS requires people to be trained in the USA
  • future funding, and how to get this in countries other than the US!


S1: This is amazing!!

S2: Amazing - also, goals are so in line with Tor

  • Funding - people will jump at this! Can be scaled really easily, and the effects will trickle down throuhg the community

A: Localization!! Figure out what country or region would be best, then find someone like me there, do knowledge transfer, and then fund THEM to do the work

S2: As it scales, it's gonna be a full-time job plus some

S3: Is this related to Toronto Public Library?

A: It is! I did a training for staff in TO, plus a public event. Talked to admin about making a plan - they were already interested in the Tor relay project, but not sure if they could get buy-in - so what about Tor Browser? Then local Tor member took over from there - more talks, and the official pilot has begun!

S3: I work out of libraries in TO so I hope it's there! Might be moving to another city - so what would be the first step to approach a librarian about this?

A: Go there, offer to help them with an easier-ask entry point - say I'm a privacy person, I know there's a lot of interest in these skills - I'd be willing to teach a free class to the public. Build a survey into the class - would you like your library to install these tools right on their own computers? Then show librarians and ask them if they're interested in next steps

S4: plus, Toronto is a great success story to point to, now!

S2: How about the Philidelphia Free Library? Their principles are really in line

A: That's the thing - privacy is one of the core values of librarians! So, put action behind your words &

S4: Do you ever sell it as a big draw, now that ebooks are bigger?

A: People are actually using libraries more now, especially in the US after the financial collapse - many people lost access to social services, and the Library coallesced as a place to get these resources - free place to stay, services for immigrants, english classes, etc. BUT, it is also true that libraries are always looking for some flashy thing to get funding - getting people in the library is not as big of a problem as the loss of funding. We've also done a whole unit on the privacy risks of ebooks - that your reading info is communicated back to the vendor (Amazon, Adobe, etc)

S2: So, how can we help to scale this? Help grant-writing?

A: Steps: thinking about funding - currently funded through the end of 2020, but after that, it could go in a different direction - localizing current state, find local people to help... also, internationally, it might not be libraries! Is there a better place elsewhere to center the LFI out of? Factfinding needs to happen

A: Enamel pins! If you want one, I will send you one

E: Have you worked with any university libraries?

A: As LFP, we did - but as LFI, we've been focusing on libraries with less resources, who serve communities who can be benefitted more.

G: In Columbia, some ppl asked about LFI - so what do we tell them right now?

A: Are they librarians, tech ppl, ??

G: One person - a student

A: Put them in touch! I did have one person from Columbia apply to the last LFI, but couldn't say yes b/c of funding restrictions.... but if there are more ppl, maybe it could happen. Also, feedback from international folks would be great, to diversify the curriculum and make it more applicable

S2: Does this stuff all have to be funded by current funding, or can Tor help?

A: Current funding is only to run LFI 4 times - everything else is just stuff I do on my own

A2: If there's external funding to give someone a scholarship, could you incorporate them into the curriculum?

A: They would need to be able to travel to the US for one weekend. Since the LFI is free, I just need someone else that they work with to keep them accountable - a mentor, someone to make sure they complete the program. Also, ideally, I would like their institution to give them time at work to do the LFI course. Would be better than them having to do it at home.

Last modified 2 years ago Last modified on Oct 1, 2018, 9:58:34 PM