Confidentiality of Library User Records

The UT Health Science Center Libraries respect the privacy rights of all customers regarding the use of library facilities. In general, the First Amendment, and the confidentiality of library records, takes precedence over everything except for national security, the threat of immediate injury or harm, and illegal activity.

Appendices 1-4 define the policies and codes that support the library’s position on confidentiality of records. Upon receiving a request from a law enforcement agent, library staff should not turn over any user records but should immediately contact the Executive Director of Libraries or a division director and the Office of Legal Affairs.

Policy

Library user records will not be made available to any individual or to any agency of local, state or federal government, except under the following circumstances:

  1. The library may disclose personal records at its discretion if it is necessary to carry out library policy (i.e. borrower records may be turned over to University Police in the course of attempts to collect overdue library materials).
  2. A library user may request his/her own records.
  3. The library may turn over library use records, if the library is served a valid process, subpoena or court order by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor, or a National Security Letter (NSL). The Office of Legal Affairs is the appropriate office on campus to receive the process and will direct the library in complying with the valid process, subpoena, etc. Whenever possible, library administration will consult with the Office of Legal Affairs before turning over personally identifiable information.

Responsibility

All library staff with access to library user records are responsible for implementation of this policy.

Scope

This policy applies to all library records, including but not limited to records relating to registration for use of BLIS, Ovid or EZProxy, circulation transaction records, computer database searches, use of electronic full-text resources, online search requests, interlibrary loan requests, reference queries, requests for photocopies of library materials, electronic article delivery requests, title reserve requests, use of library computers, browser history, software, servers and the Internet, and the use of audiovisual materials.

Procedures

  1. If approached by a law enforcement officer or prosecutor wishing access to user records, library staff should not respond immediately, but should refer the officer or prosecutor to the person in charge of the library at that time. During normal business hours, the Executive Director of Libraries, a Director or Associate Director should be contacted. If the records request should occur outside of UT Health Science Center business hours (Monday- Friday, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.) Rajia Tobia, Executive Director of Libraries, should be contacted using the library’s emergency contact list located on the intranet. If the Executive Director of Libraries is not available, staff on the main campus should call in this order Jonquil Feldman, Director of Briscoe Library Services, Luke Rosenberger, Director of Library Technology, John Weed, Head of Collection Resources, or Keith Cogdill, Director of South Texas Regional Information Services. Staff at branch libraries should contact Keith Cogdill if Rajia Tobia is not available; if neither is available, branch staff should follow the calling sequence for the main campus. Depending on the situation before complying with the request, library administration should contact the Office of Legal Affairs for handling or further instructions, (210) 567-2020. Subpoenas and other documents issued by a court should be delivered by the server to the Office of Legal Affairs.
  2. The Executive Director of Libraries or the director’s representative will speak with the officer or prosecutor, and explain policy as necessary. If the officer or prosecutor has a process, subpoena or court order, the Office of Legal Affairs will verify that the order is in proper form and has been issued with sufficient cause. If no valid papers are presented, the library may refuse to turn over requested records but this determination should be made in consultation with the Office of Legal Affairs. If the subpoena or court order is found to be valid, library staff will produce all records covered in the scope of that order. Staff should follow the subpoena strictly and should not provide any records that are not specifically requested in the legal document. It should be noted that because of the university’s records retention policy, limited retention of circulation records and routine maintenance of equipment such as computer hard disks, requested records may no longer be available. Once a valid legal request for a library use record has been made, if the record or records still exist, then the record should be retained and not destroyed.
  3. Requests for library user records issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), as amended by the USA PATRIOT Act, may contain a “gag” order: the request must be kept confidential and staff may not discuss the incident except with a supervisor, the Executive Director of Libraries or the director’s representative, and the Office of Legal Affairs. No information about the request may be disclosed to any other party including the library user whose records are the subject of the search. A federal district court recently ruled this provision of FISA unconstitutional; however, the government is appealing the court’s decision, and the lower court’s decision is stayed while the government appeals. Therefore, the library must continue to follow the provisions of FISA.
  4. Library staff should contact University Police if they have reason to believe that illegal activity is taking place as result of a user’s inappropriate use of the library’s computer resources. Examples of illegal activities include accessing child pornography or terrorism related activities. In these circumstances, it is preferable that the illegal activity be directly observed by the law enforcement officer.
  5. Occasions may arise when a library patron is using a library computer in violation of the library’s Computer Use Policy (http://www.library.uthscsa.edu/about/computeruse.cfm) which states that playing games or viewing pornographic material is unacceptable. If observed or if a library staff member receives a complaint, library staff is authorized to make the patron aware of the Computer Use Policy. If the patron persists with the unacceptable activity, then library staff are authorized to contact UT Police for further assistance.

Appendices

Appendix 1: Texas Government Code, Section 552.124 (2000) Exception: Records of Library or Library System.

Appendix 2: The USA PATRIOT Act

Appendix 3: ALA Policy Manual (c2002) 52.4 Confidentiality of Library Records

Appendix 4: Library Bill of Rights

Approved by Virginia Bowden, Library Director 6/5/2003
Approved by Mary Moore,
Director of Libraries 2/11/05
Revised and approved by Rajia Tobia,
Executive Director of Libraries 10/17/2008

Revised and approved by Rajia Tobia, Executive Director of Libraries 8/26/2010

Appendix 1

Texas Government Code, Section 552.124 (2000) Exception: Records of Library or Library System.

  1. A record of a library or library system, supported in whole or in part by public funds that identifies or serves to identify a person who requested, obtained, or used a library material or service is excepted from the requirements of Section 552.021 unless the record is disclosed:
    1. because the library or library system determines that disclosure is reasonably necessary for the operation of the library or library system and the record is not confidential under other state or federal law;
    2. under Section 552.023 [Note: This refers to a person's right to see his/her own records]; or
    3. to a law enforcement agency or a prosecutor under a court order or subpoena obtained after showing a district court that:
      1. disclosure of the record is necessary to protect the public safety; or
      2. the record is evidence of an offense or constitutes evidence that a particular person committed an offense.
  2. A record of a library or library system that is excepted from required disclosure under this section is confidential.

Appendix 2

The USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) of 2001 became law on October 26, 2001. Details of this law can be found at the ALA web site: http://www.ala.org/alaorg/oif/usapatriotact.html.

Appendix 3

The following is from the ALA Policy Manual (c2002):

52.4 Confidentiality of Library Records

The ethical responsibilities of librarians, as well as statues in most states and the District of Columbia, protect the privacy of library users. Confidentiality extends to “information sought or received, and materials consulted, borrowed, acquired,” and includes database search records, interlibrary loan records, and other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities, or services.

The American Library Association recognizes that law enforcement agencies and officers may occasionally believe that library records contain information which may be helpful to the investigation of criminal activity. If there is a reasonable basis to believe such records are necessary to the progress of an investigation or prosecution, the American judicial system provides mechanism for seeking release of such confidential records: the issuance of a court order, following a showing of good cause based on specific facts, by a court of competent jurisdiction.

The American Library Association strongly recommends that the responsible officers in each library, cooperative system, and consortium in the United States:

  1. Formally adopt a policy which specifically recognizes its circulation records and other records identifying the names of library users with specific materials to be confidential.
  2. Advise all librarians and library employees that such records shall not be made available to any agency of state, federal, or local government except pursuant to such process, order, or subpoena as may be authorized under the authority of, and pursuant to, federal, state, or local law relating to civil, criminal, or administrative discovery procedures or legislative investigatory power.
  3. Resist the issuance or enforcement of such process, order, or subpoena until such time as a proper showing of good cause has been made in a court of competent jurisdiction.

(Revised July 1999)

Appendix 4

Library Bill of Rights

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

  1. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
  2. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
  3. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
  4. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.
  5. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
  6. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

Adopted June 18, 1948, by the ALA Council; amended February 2, 1961; amended June 28, 1967; amended January 23, 1980; inclusion of “age” reaffirmed January 24, 1996.

Tags: