STAFF RESOURCES

Access Services Policy Memo #3
The Confidentiality of Library Records

The Rutgers University Libraries maintain information about individual library users only to the extent necessary to protect collections and provide services. The Libraries' policy about the confidentiality of library records is the New Jersey Confidentiality of Library Records Law (NJSA 18A:73-43.1). The statute states that:

Library records which contain the names or other personally identifying details regarding the users of libraries are confidential and shall not be disclosed except in the following circumstances:

  1. The records are necessary for the proper operation of the library;
  2. Disclosure is requested by the user; or
  3. Disclosure is required pursuant to a subpoena issued by a court or court order.

Library personnel presented with a subpoena or other court order MUST take the following steps:

An exception is when law enforcement personnel present a search warrant. Library personnel must stand aside and permit the search to proceed. They must also immediately inform counsel and their campus director or associate university librarian.

An exception when a warrant is needed but does not have to be presented to library personnel is determined to be such instances when law enforcement personnel are required to confiscate equipment potentially involved in illegal activity in order to protect and preserve content. An example would be library computers or photocopiers removed to a police evidence locker pending a court order for their examination in support of an investigation. Library personnel should assist the police so that evidence is preserved and equipment not damaged and must immediately inform counsel and their campus director or associate university librarian.

Law enforcement personnel requesting library records without paperwork are to be given a copy of this policy, shown particularly the New Jersey Statute included above, and refused until the paperwork is obtained, presented, and reviewed. Library personnel should notify their campus director or associate university librarian that a legal document may be served.

The Public Access to Government Records Law (sometimes called the Open Public Records Act or OPRA) does not apply to library records that contain the names or other personally identifying details regarding the users of the libraries. For further information, see the following Web page from the university custodian of records: http://records.rutgers.edu/exemptions.shtml, where the exception for library records is described.

Librarians Cabinet 1/7/03, rev 9/25/07

Access Services Policy Memo #3 - Addendum
Additional Guidelines for Library Staff

These guidelines support the Libraries confidentiality and privacy policies by addressing the most common instances where confidentiality of library records or user privacy is compromised. Our Privacy Policy, available at: http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/privacy_policy, is a contract between the Rutgers University Libraries and library users, and all library personnel should be familiar with its content.

Do not create a copy of a patron's record, searching history, or personally identifiable information that circumvents the established record retention schedules for library applications and systems.

New Jersey law prohibits the library from disclosing details of a patron's record to anyone except the patron. Do not tell another person, including law enforcement officers or attorneys, who has charged out or recalled a particular book, what questions a user has asked at a reference or information desk or researched on the Internet, or what electronic resources they have accessed. Do not tell patrons the name of another person who has recalled a book from them.

All transactions on the IRIS circulation system and other library computer systems are confidential. This includes charge, discharge, and renew, holds, recall, and financial transactions as well as transaction logs on public workstations and servers.

Do not provide a printout of a patron's record or searching history to anyone except the patron.

Do not tell professors the names of persons who have charged out course reserve materials (including personal copies of materials professors ask us to place on reserve).

Avoid speaking too loudly when discussing with patrons their records or transactions. Avoid discussing a patron's record over a distance.

Be discreet; do not turn the terminal toward the public area. You may turn the screen for patrons to see their own records.

Do not, just for the sake of curiosity, call up the record of a friend or someone else who is not present or not actively involved with a transaction. Do not discuss information queries with others or forward queries even within the Libraries unless it is necessary to provide the requested information. Queries should never be directly forwarded outside the Libraries. This is not just a matter of discretion but also of ethics. It is unethical to pry into or reveal someone's private records and transactions.

Occasionally a second party may arrive to pay on someone's account. Billing staff may take the payment and issue a receipt, but avoid discussing details of the transactions.

Do not answer questions pertaining to patron records or transactions asked by someone from a law enforcement agency.

Do not tell a patron that his or her record has been the subject of an inquiry from law enforcement or the subject of a subpoena or other court order.

If there is ever any question, call a supervisor.



Last updated: September 25, 2007; August 1, 2012
 
URL: http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/rul/staff/access_serv/policies/aspm_circ_records.shtml
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