Libraries have limited resources, but there is one thing we have an excess of. That’s bandwidth. I don’t mean labor or capital, but literal bandwidth. This may not be readily apparent but if you view it from a usage point of view you’ll see how much actually goes to waste. The clearest time seeing this is during library closure times. We don’t pay by the byte, so all that time we are closed is time when library bandwidth is going to waste. So, what to do with all the extra bandwidth? If libraries believe they are public good then it should be utilized instead of being wasted. I advocate that all libraries install a Tor relay in their building.
A Tor relay is a cheap way of empowering an entire ecosystem. Most libraries have old computers that can easily be converted to Linux boxes to run the relay. The process of converting a Windows PC to a Linux box is as simple as plugging in a flash-drive and booting up the computer. The process will take about a half hour and setting up the relay will take about another half hour. So with about an hours worth of work, and the opening of the firewall to allow the traffic you’re well on your way to helping support a global community that helps activists, advocates, marginalized communities, and those under oppressive regimes. It’s exactly what libraries should be doing.
If you’re on the fence as to whether this fits into your library policy I highly recommend reaching out to discuss. The barriers to entry are quite low and the impact is quite high, so for limited labor and item costs you’ll be able to do something that helps your community and beyond.
If your library cannot run a relay, you can certainly install the Tor browser on you public pcs. It runs just like any other browser but add anonymity to people’s online habits allowing them more freedom from advertisers and monitoring software. Below you’ll see a link of libraries who have already made this step, so you aren’t alone and the is solidarity to help you make this happen for your library.
More information on creating a relay can be found here: https://blog.torproject.org/new-guide-running-tor-relay
Or you can contact the Library Freedom Project here for help!
For a list of other libraries using Tor or running a Tor relay check here
Please feel free to contact me directly about any questions at email@example.com