NorthJersey.com reports of a local librarian who told police they would need a subpoena before she would turn over the circulation records of a man who had allegedly made sexually threatening comments to a 12-year-old girl outside the library. The police secured subpoenas and eventually received the information they requested, but the librarian is now under fire from local officials who decried her “blatant disregard” for law enforcement and accused her of putting the interests of the library above the interest of police.
The librarian, however, was merely following New Jersey law that considers personal information of library users to be confidential. The legislation requires any individual or entity wishing access to those records to have a court order.
Her actions were also supported by the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics which states, in part, that “We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted,” as well as the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, which states, in part, that “Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.” This has been interpreted to mean that when users recognize or fear that their privacy or confidentiality is compromised, true freedom of inquiry no longer exists.
Requiring a proper subpoena is a necessary step in protecting the privacy of users’ library records and ensuring true freedom of inquiry.
[via Pogo Was Right]