The Mathews Memorial Library (MML) supports the President of the United States and congressional leaders in our nation’s efforts to preserve and protect the many hard-fought freedoms we enjoy as Americans.
Public libraries are facing a dilemma of having the responsibility of protecting the privacy of our patrons while responding to legitimate national security concerns. The MML recognizes the confidentiality of information sought or received and materials consulted, borrowed or acquired by a library user.
The Library will do its utmost to uphold the privacy and confidentiality of patrons’ free access to information. The Library will rely on existing laws and library policies to ensure this goal is met.
About the USA Patriot Act of 2001
Under the USA Patriot Act, Public Law 107-56, library circulation records, interlibrary loan requests, use of public computers for the Internet, e-mail or chat could be subpoenaed.
The Act may provide law enforcement broader boundaries when investigating information accessed and transmitted by patrons with regard to national security concerns. Access to patron information may include but not be limited to:
Database search records. These records refer to the searches of the collection a patron may conduct on the Online Public Access Terminals (OPAC). Once a search is conducted, the software does not retain a copy of the search. Any records of the search will not exist.
Circulation Records. Patron material is circulated via the aGent Verso integrated library system. The circulation software tracks materials currently checked out. The software will only maintain a history of circulation transactions if the patron opts-in to show previously checked out items on the patron registration form. Otherwise the reader’s borrowing record is automatically erased once a book is returned.
Computer Records. Patrons use their name and library card number to sign in and access available public computers using the CybraryN public computer management software. This login information is retained only during their current session. All login data becomes anonymous once the patron has logged off the computer. Any paper records containing the patron’s information are destroyed on a daily basis.
Inter-library loan records. Patrons may borrow items not owned by the MML from other libraries worldwide via Inter-library loan (ILL). The MML tracks items currently being borrowed and generates a paper record with patron information. Once the materials are returned, the paper record is destroyed.
Reference interviews. A reference interview occurs when a patron looking for information approaches a library staff, and staff assists the patron in obtaining the information needed. No paper record is kept from the interview that has patron information on it.
Policy and Procedures for Complying with Patriot Act
The MML staff will comply with law enforcement when supplied with legal subpoena or warrant.
Staff will follow these procedures if someone asks for confidential patron information or presents a subpoena or search warrant.
- Members of the staff who are approached by anyone alleging to be a law enforcement officer should immediately contact the director or designee. No information is to be disclosed. Local and state officials cannot administer search warrants generated under the federal USA Patriot Act.
- If the person is not a law enforcement officer, or the officer does not have a subpoena or search warrant, the library will not furnish any confidential patron information. The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), § 2.2-3704 of the Code of Virginia protects the privacy of library patrons.
- The director will ask for identification and the subpoena or search warrant and immediately contact the County Attorney for assistance in review of the documents’ legal sufficiency. This procedure will be explained to the officer, and the director will ask for time to consult with the County Attorney and to respond to the request. Identification of the officer will be photocopied and the County attorney will be requested to assist on site during the search.
- Some search warrants or subpoenas issued under the Act come with a gag order attached, preventing staff from telling the patron or the public that information has been provided to law enforcement (FBI). The Act includes language to immunize librarians against civil suits in such cases.