Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records

The Council of the American Library Association strongly recommends that the responsible offices of each library in the United States:

  1. Formally adopt a policy which specifically recognizes its circulation records and other records identifying the names of library users with specific material to be confidential in nature.
  2. Advise all librarians and library employees that such records shall not be made available to an 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 such process 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 investigatory power.
  3. Resist the issuance or enforcement of any such process, order or subpoena until such a time as a proper showing of good cause has been made in a court of competent jurisdiction.*

*Note: Point 3, above means that upon receipt of such process, order, of subpoena, the library’s officers will consult with their legal council to determine if such process, order, or subpoena is in form and if there is a showing of good cause for 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 can be cured.

Adopted January, 20, 1971 by the ALA Council.
Adopted August 13, 2007 by the David A. Howe Public Library Board of Trustees

New York State Civil Practice Law and Rules. Article 45–Evidence. Paragraph 4509. Library Records

Library records, which contain names or other personally identifying details regarding the users of public, free association, school, college and university libraries and library systems of this state, including but not limited to records related to the circulation of library materials, computer database searches, interlibrary loan transactions, reference queries, requests for photocopies of library materials, title reserve requests, or the use of audio-visual materials, films or records, shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed except that such records may be disclosed to the extent necessary for the proper operation of such library and shall be disclosed upon request or consent of the user of pursuant to subpoena, court order or where otherwise required by the statute.

Adopted August 13, 2007 by the David A. Howe Public Library Board of Trustees.

Library Records with regards to the United States Patriot Act

The Patriot Act (federal legislation) requires that authorities present a search warrant to access patron information. A search warrant differs from a subpoena in that a warrant can be executed immediately and a subpoena allows time to respond to and contest the court’s order. An agent or officer serving a warrant can begin the search as soon as the warrant is served.

The library and/or its employees are entitled to ask the officer to allow them to consult with legal counsel and to ask that the counsel be present for the search, but there is no opportunity or right to refuse the search warrant.

The library and/or its employees may not notify the person whose records are the subject of the search warrant.

Adopted August 13, 2007 by the David A. Howe Public Library Board of Trustees.

Updated: December 15, 2014 — 11:09 am