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 20 months ago Last modified on Oct 1, 2018, 9:58:34 PM