Confidentiality of Library Records
Library Board policy as of March 14, 1990. Revised February 13, 2002; March 13, 2013.
The Berlin-Peck Memorial Library’s commitment to the confidentiality of patron information is rooted in the law, as well as long-standing practices of the library profession. In accordance with the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics: “We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired, or transmitted.”
In addition, Section 11-25(b) of the Connecticut General Statutes protects the confidentiality of personally identifiable information contained in the circulation records of all public libraries.
The Berlin-Peck Memorial Library does not create unnecessary records and only retains information needed. The Library does not engage in practices that would compromise the confidentiality of patron records. The Policy on the Confidentiality of Library Patron Records shall comply with applicable federal, state and local laws. Although the Library must keep information on such items as overdue and lost materials, and outstanding fines, and payments of patron accounts, these records are kept secure and are purged from the Library’s computer system when no longer needed for library business purposes. Paper records containing personal information such as names, addresses, and phone numbers, are shredded once added to the computer system. Only library staff and authorized volunteers shall have access to personal data stored by the Library.
All personal patron information is kept confidential and will not be disclosed to any third party unless the Library is compelled to do so under the law. This privacy protection includes database search records, reference interviews, circulation records, interlibrary loan records and other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities, or services. Records will be made available in the event that a duly authorized request is received from a law enforcement agency. Any court order, warrant, or subpoena presented to the Library shall be forwarded to the Library Director and then to the Town Attorney for review prior to any action being taken if the laws governing the particular type of court order, warrant, or subpoena so permit.
Individuals wishing to update or verify the accuracy of personal information may do so at the Library’s Circulation Desk. To ensure the security of personal data, verification of identity will be required in the form of a valid I.D. such as a driver’s license, passport, etc. The purpose of accessing and updating personal information is to ensure that library operations function properly. These functions include the notification of the availability of reserved or interlibrary loan items, reminders of overdue materials, etc.
In order to ensure that patrons’ records are private, the Library requires patrons to have their library cards in order to access their account information – whether online, by phone, or in person. The lone exception is when a patron uses a form of acceptable photo I.D. Except when required by law or to fulfill an individual user’s service request, the Library will not disclose any personal data collected from patrons. The Library does not sell or lease patrons’ personal information, and will not share data on individuals with third parties unless required by law.
When Library staff are on the phone with a patron, account information, such as a book’s title or subject matter, will be released if the person on the other end of the line has the library card number.
If a patron is trying to help a family member or infirm friend we will only provide account information if they have the other person’s card. The only exception to this is when an outside party wants to pay all or part of the debt owned on another’s library card. In this situation, the staff can look up the patron record and provide only the amount owed and collect a payment. No other information can be given out without a library card.
Only the Library Director or a designee is authorized to receive or comply with requests from law enforcement officers. Library records will not be made available to any agency of the state, federal , or local govenment unless the Library is served with a subpoena, warrant, court order, or other authorized request that requires legal compliance.
Confidentiality rules also apply to children’s information. In order for the Library to provide information about a minor’s account, a parent or guardian must have their child’s card number (online or by phone), or if they are here in person, they must present the child’s card or provide valid identification verifying that they are the parent who accepted responsibility for their child by co-signing the card.
ALA Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records
The Council of the American Library Association strongly recommends that the responsible officers of each library, cooperative system, and consortium in the United States:
- Formally adopt a policy which specifically recognizes its circulation records and other records identifying the names of library users to be confidential in nature.
- Advise all librarians and library employees that such records shall not be made available to any agency of state, federal, or local government except pursuant to such process, order or subpoena as may be authorized under the authority of, and pursuant to, federal, state or local law relating to civil, criminal, or administrative discovery procedures or legislative power.
- Resist the issuance of enforcement of any such process, order, or subpoena until such time as a proper showing of good cause has been made in a court of competent jurisdiction.**
Note see also ALA Policy Manual 54.16 – code of ethics, point #3, Librarians must protect each user’s right to privacy with respect to information sought or received, and materials consulted, borrowed, or acquired.
** Note: Point 3, above, means that upon receipt of such process, order, or subpoena, the library’s officers will consult with their legal counsel to determine if such process, order, or subpoena is in proper form and if there is a showing of good cause of its issuance; if the process, order, or subpoena is not in proper form or if good cause has not been shown, they will insist that such defects be cured.
Adopted January 20, 1971; revised July 4, 1975, July 2, 1986, by the ALA Council.