The staff and trustees of the Wyckoff Public Library recognize the need to protect library users’ right to privacy regarding the questions asked and the materials borrowed. The records of patron use of library resources, materials or services are confidential per the laws of the State of New Jersey (see footnote #1) and in accordance with the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics (see footnote #2). All records concerning library users and materials used or checked out by users are confidential and will not be made available to any agency of the federal, state, county or local governments or to any other person unless a court order or search warrant requiring disclosure has been entered by a court of competent jurisdiction or persons acting within the scope of their duties in the administration of the library.
As a public institution, the Library is legally required to comply with information requests pursuant to the USA Patriot Act (Uniting and Strengthening American by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, P. L. 107-56, Oct. 26, 2001). In providing information pursuant to this act or by other court order, the Library shall follow the following procedures:
- Any requests for information regarding a library user are to be referred to the Library Director, or designee, who will explain the Library’s policy and the New Jersey Law.
- If the Library staff member is presented with a subpoena, he/she is to refer the presenter to the Library Director/designee, who is to contact the Library’s attorney to verify its validity and advise the Library of what action to take.
- If the Library staff member is presented with a search warrant from a law enforcement officer, he/she is not to interfere with their search and seizure. The staff member is to contact the Library Director, or designee, as soon as possible, that a search warrant has been served so that the Director can ask the officer to allow them to consult with legal counsel and to ask that the Library’s counsel be present during the search. Whether or not the law enforcement official agrees to await the arrival of counsel, the Library’s attorney should be contacted. Library staff shall not interfere with a search conducted with a search warrant. A search warrant must be specific as to the information requested. Information outside of the scope of a search warrant should not be released.
Under the USA Patriot Act, the person whose records are subject to a search warrant may not be notified that a search warrant has been served. A supervisor or the Library’s attorney may be contacted without a violation of the act. Staff shall not inform anyone else of the existence of the search warrant.
In either the case of a subpoena or a search warrant, records shall be kept of all legal requests and costs incurred by the Library (including additional staff time and replacement of equipment).
The USA Patriot Act permits the FBI to get a search warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to retrieve library usage records of someone who is under investigation of involvement in an ongoing terrorist or intelligence investigation. Please note that the USA Patriot Act requires a search warrant and not a subpoena. A search warrant can be executed immediately upon service. A subpoena, on the other hand, allows a party a period of time to respond to and contest same.
The act absolves all institutions and employees from any liability for releasing personal information in compliance with a FISA search warrant. If a staff member fails to comply with an information request, or if information respecting a search warrant is disclosed other than to a supervisor or the Library’s attorney, the staff member may be subject to being charged with contempt of court.
If any staff member has any questions concerning this policy, he/she should direct their questions to the Library Director. The Library Director, after consulting with the Library’s attorney, will respond to the inquiry.
The information above is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice to any individual or entity. We urge you to consult with your own legal advisor before taking any action based on information appearing on this web page or any site to which it may be linked.
- N.J.S.A. 18A:73-43.2 Confidentiality of Library user’s records
Library records which contain the names or other personal identifying details regarding the users of libraries are confidential and shall not be disclosed except in the following circumstances:
a. The records are necessary for the proper operation of the library.
b. Disclosure is requested by the user; or
c. Disclosure is required pursuant to a subpoena issued by a court or a court order.
- American Library Associations’ Code of Ethics (2008) Statement III:
“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.”