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Confidentiality of Library Records

The Code of Alabama ('41-8-9 & ' 41-8-10) reads in part: The registration and circulation records and information concerning the use of the public libraries of this state shall be confidential.  Registration and circulation records shall not be open for inspection by, or otherwise available to, any agency or individual except for the following entities: (a) the library which manages the records; (b) the state education department for a library under its jurisdiction (c) the state public library service for a library under its jurisdiction. Provided however, any parent of a minor child shall have the right to inspect the registration and circulation of any school or public library that pertain to his or her child.

The law further states that A As used the term registration records includes any information that a library requires a patron to provide in order to become eligible to borrow books and other materials, and the term circulation records includes all information which identifies the patron utilizing particular books and any other materials in any medium or format.

In conforming to this law, it is the policy of the Homewood Public Library Board that no information may be released regarding Library users, or their reading material.

Specifically, the staff may not supply any information regarding a Library member (e.g., full name, address, place of employment, driver’s license number, social security number, phone number, etc.)

The staff may not supply any information regarding the use of Library material (e.g., who has read a particular book, who has a particular book, a list of material used by any library patron, the type of subject of books used by any library patron).

Registration and circulation records may be released only through legal process, and then only by the Director of the Library.  Upon receipt of a court order or subpoena, the Library Director shall consult with the Library’s attorney or designated legal counsel to determine if the court order or subpoena complies with applicable law.  If the order or subpoena is not appropriate or does not comply, then relief through a protective order may be sought.  Further, such counsel for the Library and the Library Director shall have discretion to seek judicial relief if they deem it appropriate to do so.

USA Patriot Act and the Homewood Public Library Records

HR-3162, known as the USA Patriot Act, became Public Law 107-56 in response to the events of 9/11/01. The full title of the law is: Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.

The Act provides law enforcement broader boundaries when investigating information accessed and transmitted by patrons with regards to national security concerns. The law provides federal officials the authority to conduct searches of business records, including library and bookstore records, with a court order issued by a federal court, and requires that, if such a search is conducted, no one involved will divulge that the search has taken place.

The confidentiality of patron's library use is taken very seriously by public libraries. As a result of the USA Patriot Act, public libraries face a dilemma of having the responsibility of protecting the privacy of library users while responding to legitimate national security concerns. Homewood Public Library recognizes the confidentiality of information sought or received and materials consulted, borrowed or acquired by a library user, and that is reflected in Homewood Public Library Confidentiality Policy revised June 2005, as follows:

All Homewood Public Library circulation and other records which indicate the identity of library users, especially as they connect library users with material or services used, are confidential. This confidentiality extends to information sought or received; including library materials consulted or borrowed, database search records, reference interviews, circulation records, registration records and all other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities or services.

Such information may not be disclosed, except to:

1)Persons acting within the scope of their duties in the administration of the library or library system.

2)An agency or individual or any local, state or federal government, pursuant to a process, subpoena or court order authorized pursuant to a federal, state, or local law relating to civil, criminal, administrative or legislative investigative power. Library staff will seek legal counsel from the City Attorney's Office in the event of such request for release of library records, and will respond to the request according to advice of counsel.

3)Persons authorized by the individual to inspect the individual's record.

 

The Homewood Public Library Records and the USA Patriot Act:

Homewood Public Library has in place guidelines regarding information access and confidentiality for specific library records, which include the following:

1) The Library does not retain records of individual user activity with personally identifiable information except those required for the efficient operation of the Library, in accordance with Code of Alabama ('41-8-9 & ' 41-8-10)

2)  The Library does not create unnecessary records containing a user's personally identifiable information - except those required for the efficient operation of the Library.

Specific existing library records:

Database Search Records: Searches of the collection using OPAC, the on-line catalog, are conducted by using the library's automated circulation system, once a search is conducted, the software does not retain a copy of the search. Records of the search no longer exist. The library also does not retain searches of other databases, such as newspaper, magazine or automobile repair databases, licensed by the library or library system.

Circulation Records: Data matching items with patrons is stored on the Innovative Interfaces Inc. (III) system while the material is checked out to the patron. When an item is returned and any fees and fines are paid, it is removed from the borrower's file but a link from the item to the borrower is maintained until: 1) the item is loaned to the next borrower, or 2) 30 days elapse.

Computer Use Records: The Homewood Public Library offers computers for public access to the Internet. Internet users are not required to have a library card in order to use the public access computers. Reservations are not required.  Computer access is first come, first served.

Inter-Library Loan Records: Patrons may borrow items not owned by Jefferson County Library Cooperative libraries from other libraries worldwide via Inter-Library Loan (ILL). Homewood Public Library tracks items being borrowed and generates a paper record with patron information.

Reference Interviews: A reference interview occurs when a patron looking for information approaches library staff and staff interacts with the patron in order to narrow down the specific information needed. No paper record is kept during the interview that has any patron information on it. If a patron name and number is taken by phone, and patron information is written down, as soon as the requested information is delivered, the paper record is destroyed.

For more information: The American Library Association has posted information on the USA Patriot Act and libraries. The Department of Homeland Security's site has more information (Search by "USA Patriot"). The Madison Common Council has adopted a Resolution to Defend the Bill of Rights and Civil Liberties.