Genevieve Smith, who was raised locally and graduated from Roaring Fork High School in 2000, is now the director of Pitkin County Library. “I hope to continue this legacy Kathy Chandler [the former director, now retired] began 44 years ago,” she wrote. Courtesy photo

Change is coming to Garfield County Libraries on March 28. The change: Library card holders will be assigned a password to facilitate using their cards in some cases.

Why does Garfield County Libraries feel the need for passwords? The answer, in a word, is Marmot, the Grand Junction based non-profit consortium, founded by Western Slope library directors, that allows libraries to share resources, primarily library systems, software and IT services.

“The decision to implement passwords for library accounts was reached by members of the consortium,” Marmot director Dr. Adam Murray told The Sopris Sun.

Murray continued by telling The Sun the library profession prioritizes the protection of patron privacy as a core tenant of the Library Bill of Rights. Additionally, Colorado privacy laws require that reasonable steps, such as passwords, be taken to protect personally identifiable information (PII).

“Over the last decade, there has been a dramatic increase in cyber crime, identity theft and the commodification of PII,” Murray continued. “Having passwords on library accounts is a way to help keep library users’ PII and reading history private.”

Murray said within the Marmot consortium, there have been some isolated instances of stolen library cards being used to check out materials, “leaving the real patron with steep replacement fines. There haven’t been any instances of widespread identity theft, and by implementing passwords, we hope to keep it that way.”

When contacted by The Sopris Sun, Garfield County Libraries Director Jamie LaRue said that library card holders will not have to use their passwords at the circulation desk, or to log onto computers.

How it will work

In a three-page handout sent to Garfield County Libraries directors, LaRue said default passwords will first be generated by library staff. The default password will be the first three letters in the name field, followed by the last four digits on the patron’s library card barcode. So, for example, John Doe, with the final four digits in his barcode, would be: doe4321. 

“We strongly recommend patrons changing their password to one that is meaningful to them. Passwords should include uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters,” LaRue said in the handout.

Patrons will have until July 31 to reset their password from the default password. Once libraries close on the evening of July 31, Marmot staff will update any remaining default passwords with randomly generated passwords, “effectively locking the patrons’ accounts,” the handout continued. Patrons will have to contact the library at that point for assistance in resetting the password.

Patrons who log into Pika after March 28 using their default password will be prompted to reset their password. Once patrons are logged into Pika, they should review, update or add an email address by clicking the “Edit Account” link. “They will need a valid email in order to retrieve or reset a forgotten password,” the handout said. Library staff members can also help patrons change their passwords. Patrons who don’t have an email address will have to contact a library staff member to help them create a password.

“This will be a minor inconvenience for people, but we think protecting your personal data is worth it,” LaRue said.

James Larson, the marketing and communications director for Garfield County Libraries, said the district didn’t send out any press releases concerning the new password requirement, but did address the change in its newsletters, on social media and in emails.

Here is what the library district posted on its website: “ … As much as you love your libraries, we love your privacy. Reading history, your email address, phone number or home address are all things you want to keep private. Libraries have a long history of protecting the privacy of library lovers. Starting March 28 … we are implementing passwords on the library catalog to keep your information private. Each library patron will have a default password to get started, and will be prompted to reset the default password to a password of your choosing. As we get closer to March 28, we will send additional information about what your default password will be, along with instructions on how to reset your password. Library staff will be happy to help any library lover get set with your new password. Just remember, we love your privacy.”

Because the password change applies to all 37 libraries in the Marmot consortium, the Basalt Regional Library and Pitkin County Library are also entering the new world of library card passwords, with the same March 28 starting date. Said Pitkin County Library Director Genevieve Smith in an email to The Sopris Sun, “We suspect it may be difficult for some to adapt at first, but the library’s responsibility is to protect patron privacy (which) supersedes this inconvenience.”