Library Confidential Protecting Patron Privacy

Know the Laws

New York State law on disclosing Library Records states: 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 or pursuant to subpoena, court order or where otherwise required by statute.

The U.S. Constitution and federal laws also come into play where privacy is concerned. The ALA Privacy Toolkit gives a condensed version of these laws. ALA also has a very informative Q&A on Privacy and Confidentiality.

Does Your Library Have a Policy?

Make sure your library has a privacy policy that reflects your library's privacy concerns. Need help writing a policy? ALA's Developing or Revising a Library Privacy Policy toolkit is a great place to start. SALS is here to help you, too; reach out to us for assistance with drafting your policies.

Prepare Library Staff

Make sure your library staff know what to do when law enforcement officers show up with a subpoena or search warrant requesting library records or user information.

SALS is here to help you. Contact the SALS Director if your library receives a subpoena.

Tools for Staff & Patrons

Your Privacy in the World

A lot of scary and eyeopening things are happening in the world that affect our privacy everyday. A recent NY Times series entitled The Privacy Project explores topics like license plate surveillance, "privacy" on the internet, technology trade offs and much more.


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