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    Seattle Times: King County Library System is removing its security cameras

    The Seattle Times reports on libraries in Washington state that are removing their camera surveillance systems in order to protect visitors’ privacy:

    The King County Library System is removing security cameras from its libraries, worried that supplying security video to law-enforcement agencies could compromise patron privacy.

    “We decided the cameras were not serving a purpose and were a point of contention with law enforcement,” said Bill Ptacek, who as director of the county library system has the final say. “We don’t want to be in an adversarial relationship. We believe intellectual freedom is the important part, so we got out of the camera business.”

    The library system, which serves 1.3 million patrons, and records more than 1 million visitors each month, has about four dozen security cameras in 10 of its 46 libraries. The cameras were installed beginning in 2006, both inside and outside the buildings, because of requests by librarians faced with petty crimes, vandalism and graffiti. […]

    Ptacek, of the King County Library System, said cameras often provide a false sense of security, and there are enough staff members to visually supervise the libraries. “We’re not in the business of surveillance,” he said.He said he worries that the cameras might show what books patrons are checking out or what books they put in the book drop. […]

    Removing the cameras isn’t costing any extra money because it’s being done as part of the normal course of work for facilities employees, according to the library system.

    The camera removal will even save money because it costs $30,000 a year to maintain the cameras, Ptacek said, “and $30,000 buys a lot of books.”

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