Confidentiality of Library Records
Library records should not be released or made available in any format to a law enforcement officer or any other person unless a court order (e.g. a subpoena or a search warrant) has been entered by a court of competent jurisdiction after a showing of good cause by the law enforcement agency or person seeking the records.
The Ohio Revised Code defines a library record as "a record in any form that is maintained by a library and that contains any of the following types of information:
- Information that the library requires an individual to provide in order to be eligible to use library services or borrow materials,
- Information that is provided by an individual to assist a library staff member to answer a specific question or provide information on a particular subject."
In specific terms, a library record includes: patron records, acquisition records, and interlibrary loan requests. Email, verbal comments, and printed reports could also fit the definition of library record if made or provided for the purposes identified above.
- The U.S.A. Patriot Act, passed on October 26, 2001, significantly expands the authority of law enforcement officers to gain access to business records, medical records, educational records, and library records, including stored electronic data and communications. Confidentiality of library records is a basic principle of librarianship and many states, including Ohio, have laws protecting the confidentiality of such records (Ohio Revised Code 149.432 "Release of library record or patron information"). The following staff directive is intended to insure compliance with the law while also insuring maximum confidentiality.
Process for Responding to Request for Confidential Library Records
- All requests for library records should be referred to the Dean of University Libraries, the custodian of library records
- In the Dean's absence, the request should be referred to University Counsel
- Any staff member approached by a law enforcement agency or any other person requesting library records should immediately refer the individual to the Dean
- If the request is made in the form of a search warrant (which is executable immediately), indicate to the agent that the search warrant must be served to the Dean before a search of library records can be initiated.
Reviewed by University Counsel
Approved by University Libraries Council 8/7/2002