Confidentiality of Library Records

The Texas Public Information Act provides that all information collected, assembled, or maintained by or for governmental bodies, (except in those situations where the governmental body does not have either a right of access to or ownership of the information, pursuant to the law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business) is public information and available to the public during normal business hours of any governmental body.

The Texas Public Information Act, however, provides a list of exempted records, one of these being records of a library or library system, supported in whole or in part by public funds, that identify or serve to identify a person who requests, obtains, or uses a library material or service.

The library records may be disclosed if the library determines that disclosure is reasonably necessary for the operation of the library or library system, and the records are not confidential under other state or federal law and

  • the records are released to the person to whom the information relates
  • a person to whom the information relates has given permission, in writing, for the information to be released to another person
  • the Texas Attorney General has determined that the information should be released
  • the records are released to a law enforcement agency or a prosecutor under a court order or subpoena, or in response to a warrant issued under the U.S. Patriot Act - see Procedures for Responding to Law Enforcement Requests for Library Records and/or Equipment

The American Library Association's statement on Professional Ethics provides that librarians

  • must provide a high level of service and assistance to their customers,
  • resist efforts by groups or individuals to censor library materials,
  • protect each user's right to privacy regarding materials used or information sought,
  • adhere to the principles of due process and equality of opportunity in peer relationships and personnel actions,
  • distinguish between their personal philosophies and attitudes and those of the library,
  • avoid situations in which personal interests are served or financial benefits are gained at the expense of the library or the library users.

The American Library Association’s Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records recommends that each library adopt a policy regarding the confidentiality of and availability of circulation records and other records identifying the names of library users.

I. CIRCULATION RECORDS

The Library Card Registration form must be signed by a parent or guardian; the parent or guardian's name must be recorded in the online Patron record in the Parents/Guardians field.

For juvenile cards circulation information may be released to

  1. Circulation information is defined as any information linking a customer to a specific item or subject category of library material.
  2. Information on circulation system screens about patrons, their circulation transactions or registration is confidential.
  3. Adult cards are issued to customers 18 and over. Information may be released to
    • the card holder
    • to any person who is carrying written permission from the card holder to access circulation information.

      Presentation of a library card implies authorization by the card holder to access circulation records

  4. Juvenile cards are issued to customers under the age of 18.
    • the child card holder
    • the adult(s) who signed the Library Card Registration form and whose name(s) is/are recorded in the Patron record.
    • anyone with written permission from the adult(s) who signed the Library Card Registration form (whose names are recorded in the Patron record.)

      Presentation of a library card implies authorization by the card holder to access circulation records

The library will accept payment for fines, lost charges, and processing fees for materials a person is returning even if the materials and the payments were checked out by one or more others customer(s). In such cases, it is permitted to give the person paying the receipts for all those payments.

Note: the person paying the fines, charges, and fees is NOT required to present the library card(s) of the customers(s) whose fines, etc. are being paid.

The library will accept payment for, lost charges, and processing fees for a payment against the balance for a from anyone even if the payment is made independent of the returning of materials. In such cases, also it is permitted to give the person who pays the receipts for all those payments.

Note: the person paying the fines, charges, and fees is NOT required to present the library card(s) of the customer(s) whose fines, etc. are being paid.

  1. Renewal of materials: A person wishing to renew materials (his/her own or someone else’s) must present a library card or the appropriate identification the same as is required for the first checkout.
    • This is true even if the person jut returned those materials (for example, for a neighbor) and paid the fines on them.
    • In the case of a renewing his/her child’s book on the child’s library card, the parent would either have to present the child’s card, check the items out on parent/guardian information on the child’s card.
  2. Releasing circulation information over the phone requires that
    • the caller must have the library card number, name and address and must provide the PIN personal identification number.
    • the name and address and PIN must be verified in the checkout function of the circulation system
  3. Fine payment for Someone Else with Return of Material:
  4. Fine Payments for Someone Else Independent of Return of Material:
  5. Checkin Receipts: A person returning library materials may have a checkin listing the items returned even though that may have the names of the other customers whose materials s/he is returning.

II. REGISTRATION

The Library Card Registration form includes a field for Names of Persons Who May Pick Up Material Reserved on This Card. This information is recorded in the WhoPicksUpHolds field in the Patron record.

Those who may pick up holds for that customer are:

Note: The permission to pick up holds does not extend generally to other circulation information about the customer.

A customer may request by telephone that his/her email address be added to, changed in, or deleted from his registration information. Such requests must however include provision of the library card number to protect the confidentiality and security of the record.

  1. When a minor turns 18 he/she may be encouraged to update his/her card to adult status by completing a new Library Card Registration form. At this point the names of adults who had access to these records must be deleted from the patron record and the patron type must be changed to adult.
  2. Completed Library Card Registration forms must not be left where they can be seen by other library users.
  3. Who May Pick Up Holds
    • the card holder
    • the card holder's parent or guardian for those under 18
    • any person named by the customer on a reserve for that specific title.
    • any person whose name is in the WhoPicksUpHolds field of the Dynix Patron record.
  4. EMAIL Address information
  5. PIN Numbers

    The Library Card Registration form includes a place to assign a personal identification (PIN) used for direct customer access to confidential information in the circulation system. The form requires that the mother’s maiden name be recorded as security information to authorize release of the PIN.

III. RESERVE FORMS

  1. The customer may use the reserve form to authorize another person to pick up that item.
  2. When calling to notify a customer that the material he/she requested is available, the following procedures must be followed:
    1. Title information may be released to the person who made the request or to the person whose name is listed in the authorization statement on the reserve form.
    2. In the case of children title information can be released to the parents/guardians who signed the Library Card Registration Form (and who are shown in the Patron Record) or to the person whose name is listed in the authorization statement on the reserve form.
    3. When leaving a message do not give out title information. A message similar to the following should be left: "The material that was requested by (name) is available at (branch). It will be held until (date)."
  3. The Hold Shelf and any other area where reserved materials are stored temporarily must be arranged so that the names of the individuals requesting the materials are not visible to other customers.
  4. Discard the reserve slip when the material is picked up.

IV. CUSTOMER PRIVACY AND CONFIDENTIALITY

Reading logs should be taken home by the customer and updated by the customer. Any logs kept at the branch must be kept away from the public areas. There should be no public access to a customer’s reading logs.

Section 552.352 Distribution of Confidential Information

  1. Reference services are confidential.
    • The reference interview should be conducted as discreetly and quietly as possible to preserve confidentiality.
    • Staff must not discuss a customer's questions or reading habits except in the course of conducting library business.
  2. Summer Reading Program Logs are confidential. Staff must follow established procedures:
  3. Volunteers as well as staff are responsible for keeping these records confidential.
  4. Distribution of confidential information is a misdemeanor under Section of the Texas Public Information Act.
    1. A person commits an offense if the person distributes information considered confidential under the terms of this chapter
    2. An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by:
      1. a fine of not more than $1,000;
      2. confinement in the county jail for not more than six months;
      3. both the fine and confinement.
    3. A violation under this section constitutes official misconduct
  5. Confidential records must be released to a law enforcement officer or prosecutor if a subpoena or court order is received. If the subpoena or court order requires immediate compliance, do so and notify the Library Director or Deputy Director as soon as possible. If the date on the court order or subpoena is in the future notify the Library Director or Deputy Director and fax or deliver the document the same day it is received.
  6. Any other request for information under the Texas Public Information Act should be faxed or delivered to the Library Director or the Deputy Director the same day it is received. This will be forwarded to the County Attorney for disposition.