Privacy In a Public Library? Suzanne Reymer Montana State Library Spring 2009
Privacy vs. Confidentiality
In a library (physical or virtual), the right to privacy is the right to open inquiry without having the subject of one’s interest examined or scrutinized by others.
Confidentiality exists when a library is in possession of personally identifiable information about users and keeps that information private on their behalf.
Montana Library Records Confidentiality Act MCA 22-1-1101 – 22-1-1111
No person may release or disclose a library record or portion of a library record to any person except in response to:
(a) a written request of the person identified in that record, according to procedures and forms giving written consent as determined by the library; or
(b) an order issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, upon a finding that the disclosure of such record is necessary because the merits of public disclosure clearly exceed the demand for individual privacy.
A library is not prevented from publishing or making available to the public reasonable statistical reports regarding library registration and book circulation if those reports are presented so that no individual is identified therein.
Library records may be disclosed to the extent necessary to return overdue or stolen materials or collect fines.
"Library" means a library that is established by the state, a county, city, town, school district, or a combination of those units of government, a college or university, or any private library open to the public.
"Library records" means any document, record, or any other method of storing information retained, received, or generated by a library that identifies a person as having requested, used, or borrowed library material or other records identifying the names or other personal identifiers of library users. Library records does not include nonidentifying material that may be retained for the purpose of studying or evaluating the circulation of library materials in general or records that are not retained or retrieved by personal identifier.
Examples of Library Records
Inter Library Loans
Patron contact information
Mom wants to know what books her 8 year old has checked out. The books aren’t overdue, but she is concerned that her son might have lost the items. What should library staff do in this situation?
A woman calls wanting to know if Joe is in the library and if she can talk to him. She says she is Joe’s mom. Joe is in the library using the Internet. What should library staff do in this situation?
The library would like to let people know about the Friends’ book sale. The Friends’ president has a great idea. Staff can use the library’s database to send postcards to everyone that has a library card. What are the issues surrounding this? What can library staff do in this situation?
You hear well after the fact that a library patron was extremely distressed to find a 10 year old boy in the library during school hours viewing porn on a library computer. What privacy rights does this boy have? What are the rights of the offended patron?
How does life in a small town change the nature of privacy?
What can and should library staff do to help ensure that the library respects privacy?
Privacy & the Internet
How do social networking sites and new technologies change the nature of privacy?
Should browser history files be considered confidential library records? Why or why not?
Law enforcement wants to know what sites a teenager has been looking at. The officer believes that the student is trying to build a bomb.
What should staff do?
Conduct privacy audit of your library.
What records are you keeping?
For how long?
What do you do with them when you no longer need them?
Provide training for staff on confidentiality & privacy issues
Offer opt ins
Sample policies and other resources available: http:// delicious.com/sreymer/privacy