Confidentiality of Library Records

It is the ethical responsibility of library staff to protect the privacy of library patrons. According to the American Library Association Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records, "Confidentiality extends to information sought or received, and materials consulted, borrowed , acquired, and includes database search records, reference interviews, circulation records, interlibrary loan records, and other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities, or services."

In California, the privacy of library patrons is protected via statute in the Public Records Act, Cal Gov’t Code 6254, 6267 (Deering Suppl 2001). This statute specifically mentions "registration records" which are defined as "any information which a library requires a patron to provide in order to become eligible to borrow books and other materials" and "circulation records" which are defined as "any information which identifies the patrons borrowing particular books and other material."

This means that any information on an individual patron record or any information regarding who has borrowed particular items is confidential and is not to be disclosed by any library staff member or student assistant. One patron should not be given information about another patron. The following are examples of requests that are to be denied: 1) a professor asks to see if one of his/her students has requested a particular item on interlibrary loan, 2) a patron says he/she has forgotten his/her ID card and wants to know what he/she has checked out, 3) a parent, without a student’s permission, requests information about fines billed to Student Accounts.

All registration and circulation records are confidential and should not be disclosed except as follows:

  1. "by a person acting within the scope of his or her duties within the administration of the library" e.g. library staff can perform necessary updating to patron records,
  2. "by a person authorized, in writing, by the individual to whom the records pertain, to inspect the records,"
  3. "by order of the appropriate superior court."
    Cal Gov’t Code 6267 (Deering Suppl 2001)

Violation of the confidentiality of any of the library records mentioned in this policy is subject to disciplinary action and may result in termination of employment.

Approved by the Library Administrative Group on 11/15/94
Updated by the Library Council on 11/28/01