“A Hidden Obligation”

“A Hidden Obligation:” the Latest in a Series of Articles

I first became interested in privacy when I worked at the Ohio State University and was asked to do an audit of legal issues for my library.  As I began interviewing and surveying departments, Judy Weiner mentioned that she had questions and unresolved issues about how HIPAA and other privacy laws applied to the Medical Heritage Collection she curates.  Together, we decided to make an effort to understand how HIPAA and other laws and regulations might apply (or not) to that collection.  With some trepidation, we shared some our questions with the university’s Privacy Officer.  When the Privacy Officer’s initial reaction was something along the lines of “What’s an archive?  What do you people collect?” well, we knew we were asking questions outside the purview of the average professional working in the area of health privacy.

Our efforts to educate our privacy officer—and each other–led to our decision to start writing on the subject.  We’ve now written four articles where we discuss “Balancing Between Two Goods,” the importance of both preserving the historical record and guarding the privacy and confidentiality of its subjects.  Our work has focused on medically-oriented special collections, which bring a heightened set of legal and ethical concerns.

Working with Judy is always a pleasure and has been a model for me of what writing with a co-author should be.  Our strengths as writers complement each other, and her understanding of archival practices and priorities (she has a M.A. in public history as well as a masters in library science) is a good foil for my background in academic libraries and law.

Our latest article, “A Hidden Obligation: Stewarding Privacy Concerns in Archival Collections Using a Privacy Audit,” came out recently in the Journal for the Society of North Carolina Archivists.  In it we talked about how to make assessments about privacy and confidentiality issues at the time of first processing collections.  Privacy and confidentiality are contextual issues, with definitions and norms that seem to be in continual flux right now.  I have been fortunate to collaborate with someone with Judy’s depth and devotion to the subject as I have learned about it over the last few years.

Articles on privacy and confidentiality by Judith Wiener and myself:

Wiener, Judith A. and Gilliland, Anne T. Balancing between two goods: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and ethical compliancy considerations for privacy-sensitive materials in health sciences archival and historical special collections  Journal of the Medical Library Association, Jan 2011; 99(1): 15–22. doi:  10.3163/1536-5050.99.1.005

Gilliland, Anne T. and Wiener, Judith A.  Digitizing and Providing Access to Privacy-Sensitive Historical Medical Resources: A Legal and Ethical Overview, Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries, V.8, no.4  382-403 (2011) DOI:10.1080/15424065.2011.626347


Gilliland, Anne T. and Wiener, Judith A. Privacy and Confidentiality Issues in Historical Health Sciences Collections.  39 Northern Kentucky Law Review, 189 (2012). http://hdl.handle.net/1811/59286

Gilliland, Anne T. and Wiener, Judith A.  A Hidden Obligation: stewarding privacy concerns in archival collections using a privacy audit.  11 (1) 19-35 Journal for the Society or North Carolina Archivists, (2014).