Update on Local Library SSN Practices

While I never received a reply to my letter to the Shorewood, Wisconsin Public Library regarding its requiring I provide my social security number to obtain a library card, I do have anecdotal evidence that the library might have changed its policy.

This week my wife obtained her library card, and while the paperwork still requested both a valid social security number and a drivers license, the person assisting my wife stated that these were optional. My wife didn’t even have to ask about whether providing this personal and sensitive information was necessary; the librarian simply volunteered the information.

So, what can we learn from this? Either (a) the library has changed its policy regarding forcing patrons to provide their social security (and drivers license) number to gain borrowing privileges; (b) the librarian I dealt with was not trained properly regarding the need to provide this sensitive information; or (c) the librarian my wife dealt with is equally concerned with having a library collection sensitive patron information, and decided to go against policy and allow her to obtain a library card without divulging the information.

Either way, we need clarification as to what the library’s policy is regarding the collection and retention of sensitive patron information, along with a summary of how individual librarians are trained on that policy, and perhaps an audit on how accurately that policy is being executed.

I will follow up with the Director, and report any news.

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