Patron Privacy for Frontline Staff

Patron Privacy for Frontline Staff

Public Libraries are committed to protecting the borrowing information of patrons, and their right to access information that is controversial, sensitive or personal, without fear of embarrassment or humiliation.

Protection of patron information is not optional. It is protected by law:

  • New York State Law (Civil Practice Laws and Rules sec 2307 ยง4509) guarantees the confidentiality of library patron borrowing records. A patron’s records can only be viewed upon presentation of a subpoena.
    • Under New York State Law, if a parent is signing for a library card for someone under 18, the library is, under the above law, prohibited from revealing that minor’s borrowed materials to that parent.
    • Without prior consent, a member of a household (for example: husband/wife), may not access another household member’s record (i.e. pick up items for them).
  • USA PATRIOT ACT still requires the presentation of a subpoena for access to your records.

Patron Information “Ownership”:

  • The information in a patron’s record is the property of the library that is listed as the home library for that patron. While other libraries have access to that data, no other library can use that data for anything other than library transactions.
  • An “owning” library can use the data for library mailings. If the library has a Friends group, they can allow the group to also use the patron data, but should first contact patrons (via mass email mailing or at the point of issuing a library card) and let them know the library is providing their contact information to the Friends and give them an opportunity to opt out of receiving mail from the Friends. In all communications to a patron thereafter, they should always be given the opportunity to opt out of receiving mailings from the library or the friends (if it is a non-circulation related communication)
    • Patron information will not be given to any other organization other than the Friends.

Patron Borrowing History:

  • As soon as a patron returns an item within the due date, the link to that item is deleted from their patron record. However, the software retains in the item’s record, the name of the last person who took it out and the name of the current borrower of the item. In addition, if a patron owes a fine or has an outstanding bill, that information stays on the patron’s record until six months after payment has been received. The software also keeps track of the items a patron has on hold.
  • Reading History Option: If a patron elects to turn on the Reading History option in their online account, the system will remember all items they check out even after they return them. This information is protected under the privacy law and can only be accessed by the patron or the library, if the library is presented with a subpoena. At any time, patrons may delete items from their reading history and those items will no longer be included. For people who do not choose the reading history options, no history of checked out items is kept.
  • Help patrons be aware that if they wish to be notified of item availability or fine notices by e-mail, that the e-mail message will include the title of the item.

For more information:

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