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by | Nov 13, 2023 | 0 comments


One of the traditions of the Charleston Conference is a debate on a resolution, conducted by commonly accepted rules, in which the winner is the debater who convinced the most attendees to change their minds. This debate considered this subject:

Resolved: Campus Network Security Is Not the Library’s Job

The moderator was Susan Winters, Vice President, External Relations at Springer Nature. Rick Anderson, University Librarian at Brigham Young University was opposed to the resolution, and Mark McBride from ITHAKA was in favor. Before the debate the audience vote was 17 in favor and 11 against.

Mark said that campus network security involves many features and falls under the college’s functions: network access control, authorization to verify that users have access to its facilities obtaining an accounting of details of users’ actions, firewalls, moderation of access to mitigate threats, antivirus services, protecting against malicious software, security of wireless networks, formulation of security processes and training users, task management, physical security, and safeguarding against physical intrusions and thefts. Expert service providers are being hired by university to manage these processes. Universities need to partner with organizations that have the expertise. Libraries oversee many operations on behalf of their campus including network providers. A designated security officer is required to report to the Board of Trustees, which is the role of campus network security departments. They must provide responses to incidents, make sure that security process are up to date, and oversee their implementation. These roles are not the responsibilities of campus libraries.

Rick Anderson said that libraries play a significant role in security, but saying that the library’s job is security is incorrect and dangerous. Libraries used to connect with security only through its back office functions. As collections became electronic, users were connected to a large portal which is network security. When students connect to get access, they start to get authenticated and are allowed to get into the campus system. where they can access sensitive information about themselves. On most campuses the library makes agreements with information providers and pledges to only allow access to validated users. Libraries teach users to keep their data private and to watch out for outside efforts to get access to credentials. The library’s role in safeguarding network credentials has the effect of not giving outsiders access to everything on the campus network. The library’s own security systems can affect the whole campus. University networks are under constant attack of data security. The library must ensure that its own nodes are secure.


Mark: The library does have an important role in digital literacy which is the way humans exist. The role of a chief security officer on a campus is paramount. The library is not well positioned to take on the security of an entire campus. The library is uniquely positioned to educate the campus, but they are not responsible to provide security for the campus; that is what IT experts are hired for.

Rick: The transfer of all the network security responsibility to the library to have responsibility for terms is not only theirs; it is the role of many organizations on the campus.

The audience made the following points:

  • We must be sure that we are not revealing anything more than we have to.
  • Campus network security is not the library’s job, but they must touch it. There are pieces that the library is responsible for and must be knowledgeable about.
  • We are not experts but we do treat user data securely.
  • What the highest level campus administrators understand about libraries is important.
  • Somebody outside the library who is knowledgeable about IT must be responsible for network security. The tension between libraries and campus IT has been going on for a long time: IT’s concern is keeping things locked down, and the library’s concern is giving people access to information.

The final audience vote was 9 in favor, 12 opposed, so the winner was Rick.

Don Hawkins, Conference Blogger




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