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Patron Privacy and New Jersey Public Libraries
Article Number: 585 | Rating: Unrated | Last Updated: Thu, Oct 15, 2015 at 2:38 PM
Patron Privacy and New Jersey Public Libraries
As technology allows for the increased procurement of data on library patron use it is important to have privacy policies in place that encompass not only patron circulation records but computer/wifi use, third party vendors and surveillance cameras in public libraries. This paper provides some information on the foundation on which library policies on privacy and confidentiality are based so your trustees are better informed about this basic tenet of librarianship. Future papers will build on this foundation to address the formation of policies that are as comprehensive as possible in addressing patron privacy in a 21st Century library.
Board Education Component:
Background on Patron Privacy
“The American Library Association (ALA), the voice of America's libraries, is the oldest, largest and most influential library association in the world. Its approximately 56,000 members are primarily librarians but also trustees, publishers and other library supporters. The Association represents all types of libraries; its mission is to promote the highest quality library and information services and public access to information.” (http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/0415_StateAmLib.pdf)
Library Bill of Rights -
The ALA adopted the Library Bill of Rights in 1939. It is a basic statement of principles that should govern the service of all libraries. The document was amended several times with the most recent being in 1996. It reads: The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.
Ok, that's interesting but where is patron privacy specifically mentioned in the Library Bill of Rights?
Interpreting the Library Bill of Rights -
The Library Bill of Rights is interpreted by the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) of the ALA. The IFC is charged with making recommendations to the association and the ALA in turn creates policies based on these recommendations. The policies addressing patron privacy are based on the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution and number IV of the Library Bill of Rights.
The ALA Policy concerning Confidentiality of Personally Identifiable Information about Library Users states:
Library Code of Ethics -
The Library Code of Ethics was also established in 1939 by the ALA with several revisions to the code since that time. Following is the opening statement of the code and Section III addressing patron privacy.
The ALA encourages public libraries to work with their local legal counsel to ensure they understand federal and state laws regarding confidentiality and patron privacy so they may respond quickly to any requests from law enforcement for information in regards to library patrons.
(Above information obtained from the ALA's website - www.ala.org)
New Jersey Laws -
Library policies in the area of privacy must be in compliance with all applicable federal, state and local laws. In New Jersey there is a specific statute addressing library confidentiality in regards to patron records:
N.J.S.A. 18A:73-43:2 – Confidentiality of Library Records -
The NJ library confidentiality law supersedes the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). OPRA specifically provides that records should not be disclosed if the records are protected by another law like the confidentiality statute. – See NJSA 47:1A et seq
S967/A1396 Reader Privacy Act –
Passed in September 2014, this act prohibits service providers (both bookstores and e-Book retailers) from sharing a customer’s information without the customer’s permission unless there is a court order or circumstances involving criminal activity. The following is testimony of Pat Tumulty, Executive Director of the NJLA to the State Commerce Committee in support of the legislation.
New Jersey Library Association -
The NJLA’s policy on Confidentiality of Library Records states: Confidentiality exists when a library is in possession of personally identifiable information about users and keeps that information private on their behalf
The NJLA has issued guidelines for the creation of policies and procedures to address N.J.S.A. 18A:73-43:2. These guidelines can be located at: http://njla.org/content/njla-statement-privacy-0
When reviewing the background for “why” privacy policies exist in public libraries it is important to emphasize that the Library Bill of Rights and Library Code of Ethics make clear that it is the responsibility of trustees to ensure that they are doing all they can to protect patron privacy within the constraints of the law. This responsibility is echoed in the NJLA’s policy
It is our assumption that most BCCLS libraries have policies in place to address N.J.S.A. 18A:73-43:2. These policies focus on important procedures regarding subpoenas and search warrants for information requested by law enforcement. Future Info & Action sheets will cover this basic policy found in many libraries. In addition we will seek to expand on this current framework to more comprehensive guidelines covering use of third party vendors (i.e. Zinio, Hoopla, Overdrive), technology recording wifi use, and surveillance systems recording patrons’ use of the library.
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