CONFIDENTIALITY OF LIBRARY RECORDS
and PATRON PRIVACY POLICY

POLICY STATEMENT:  The Board of Trustees of the Library believes it is the basic right of every individual to read what he/she wishes to read without fear of censure or legal consequence.  The Board affirms every patron’s right to privacy, and will make concerted efforts to protect that right.

APPLICATION:  This Policy governs the rights of patrons and responsibilities of the Library to protect patron’s privacy rights.

PROCEDURES FOR IMPLEMENTATION:

Legal Requirements - New Jersey law[1] requires that library records and documents containing the names or other personal information about library users be confidential and not disclosed except in the following three (3) circumstances:

The records are necessary for the proper operation of the library,

The disclosure is requested by the user,

Disclosure is mandated by a subpoena issued by a court or by a court order.

Definitions – The following definitions shall apply for purposes of this policy:

“Library records” include any document or record, however maintained, the primary purpose of which is to provide for control of the circulation or other public use of library materials.[2]

“Confidential Information” includes, but is not limited to the following with regard to both currently registered patrons and past patrons and other users:

Contact Information, including name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, and other personal identifying information;

Whether an individual is a patron of or visitor to the Library;

Current or previous materials borrowed;

Image and voice;

The frequency or nature of visits to the Library or any other information supplied to the Library by the patron;

The frequency, nature or duration of use of Library computers, including Internet access;

Resources consulted, whether print, audio or electronic, including database and Internet searches conducted personally or by Library staff upon request;

Questions asked; and

Any other personally identifying details known or contained in any Library record.

“Staff Member” shall include both employees and volunteers.

Requests for Information Generally - Regardless of the identify of the requester – individual, business, organization, government agency, etc. – absent a subpoena or court order (and in accordance with the procedures set out below), no Staff Member may release any Confidential Information as defined in this policy.  Any staff member receiving a request for Confidential Information shall explain that all information about patrons and other users of the Library is confidential by law and may be released only in response to a court-issued subpoena or other court order. 

Individual patrons may request and receive Confidential Information about themselves contained in Library records, upon presentation of a valid library card and confirmation of identification.

Requests for Information – Subpoenas and Court Orders - If the Library or the Board of Trustees, or any employee, volunteer or individual Trustee, receives or is served with a subpoena or court order requesting Library records containing Confidential Information, the recipient immediately shall notify the Director, Assistant Director or librarian in charge and should not take any other action.  The Director or the Assistant Director shall review the subpoena or court order and shall consult with the Library’s attorney, as necessary, to determine whether and to what extent the Library may or is required to comply.  The Director, in consultation with the Library’s attorney and/or the President or full Board of Trustees, also will determine whether to move to quash the subpoena or order, or try to minimize its scope.  Only the Director and the Assistant Direction in the absence of the Director, is authorized to release any Library records containing Confidential Information pursuant to a subpoena or court order, or under any other circumstance. 

If a court order is issued by a court after a full hearing in which the Library participated, documents or records cited in the order shall be released, but only by the Library Director and only to the designated recipient of the records or information.

If any question or problem relating to the release of Library records arises, which is not covered above, the employee or volunteer shall immediately refer the question to his/her supervisor and/or the Director.

Confidentiality - Except as directed by the Library Director or as stated in this policy, Library employees, volunteers and Trustees shall not disclose to any other employee, volunteer, Trustee, patron (including the patron who is the subject of the request) or other third party, the fact that the Library received a subpoena or court order requesting for Library records containing Confidential Information, the identity of the patron about whom the request was made, the Confidential Information requested, and the Library’s response to the request.  Failure to comply with this broad confidentiality requirement may subject the employee to disciplinary action and the volunteer or Trustee to other appropriate action, and also may constitute a violation of law.

Other Privacy-Related Issues – As part of the Library’s efforts to protect the privacy rights of Library patrons, while still providing services in accordance with the Library’s Mission Statement, the following additional guidelines shall apply:

A patron may check out items and retrieve account information without his/her Library card, by producing a photo ID to a staff member, who then must verify that the information matches the information on file for that patron, including that he/she holds a current, unrestricted Library card.

Notwithstanding the above procedure, patrons must present their Library card in order to check out any hold items.

The Library will provide hold/reserve information only to the patron.  Staff may not leave any specific details on hold items in a message given to another person or left on a voice mail or answering machine.

Any person may pay another patron’s fines, but the staff member will not provide the payer with any Confidential Information, other than the amount of the fine, but not the reasons for the fine. If someone returns or renews an overdue item for you, he or she may pay the fine, but your account history will not be disclosed.

The Library protects children’s records the same as other patrons, so parents borrowing books and materials should use their child’s library card when checking out, renewing or paying fines on items for their child.

ENFORCEMENT/IMPLEMENTATION: All Library employees are responsible for adhering to this policy, and the Director is responsible for implementing and enforcing this Policy.  Any Library employee who discloses confidential information as defined below, other than in accordance with the terms of this policy, will be disciplined, up to and including termination.  Any volunteer or Trustee who violates this policy will be subject to sanction appropriate to his/her position.

Approved by the Board of Trustees:  February 9, 2016

 

[1] N.J.S.A. 18A:73-43.2.

[2] N.J.S.A. 18A:73-4.1(b).