Yes, we encounter this issue more and more as we collect more
patient-centered biomedical research collections. Personal names are often
folder titles for research projects, surgery patients, etc., the content of
which are protected by our Personally Identifiable Health Information
We edit the finding aid box list to remove personal names, with
the intent to re-edit once a restriction expires.
Here is an example, in the Bladder Stimulation--Patient Files
subseries. Notice we still intellectually arrange contents within appropriate
Similar practices work for personnel files, etc.
John P. Rees, MA, MLIS
Curator, Archives and Modern Manuscripts
History of Medicine Division, MSC 3819
National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20894
A few years ago, when I encoded finding aids at the University of Vermont, I became aware that putting inventories on the web had the potential for raising privacy issues to a new level. It's one thing to indicate in a paper finding aid that will sit in a notebook on a shelf of an institution that's open 45 hours a week that one has a list of political donors to a contentious political campaign or a list of participants in a radical theater production or old personnel records for a still-active business, and to announce that information on the web for -- literally -- the world to see and make of it as it will.
Has anyone else played with this reality as it relates to our professional commitment to protecting third-party privacy? Has anyone experienced unexpected ethical ramifications of having their inventories online?
I now teach EAD and, having covered the technical issues for the semester, want to expand students' thinking about the non-technical issues related to EAD.
Thanks in advance for any pithy thoughts and/or case examples.
Elizabeth H. Dow
School of Library and Information Science
Louisiana State University