PATRON ANONYMITY POLICY

 

 

WHEREAS, the traditional role of public libraries in a free democratic society is to make books, writings and information on all subjects of interest easily available without charge to all people, so as to maintain a well-informed and well-educated citizenry.

 

WHEREAS, the traditional principles of religious and political freedom have always forbidden and prevented the suppression of unpopular ideas and writings, however controversial or offensive.

 

WHEREAS, public libraries have traditionally promoted the principles of religious and political freedom by making freely available to patrons all writings and books of interest, regardless of popularity or perceived offensiveness.

 

WHEREAS, to ensure a wide and free dissemination of all ideas and writings, and to encourage patrons to read and consider all ideas and writings, including unpopular ones,  libraries have traditionally preserved the anonymity of patrons, especially from governmental authorities.

 

WHEREAS, many of the ideas and principles now recognized as true and just were once, not so long ago, seen as threatening, dangerous, and subversive.  These ideas include the equal treatment before law of all people, regardless of race, creed color; or gender, and scientific ideas of evolution and relativity.   

 

WHEREAS, for these reasons, Kent Memorial Library has always remained strongly committed to the principle of patron anonymity.

 

WHEREAS, on October 16, 2001, the United States enacted a law entitled the “Uniting and Strengthening America By Providing Appropriate Tools to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001” also known as the “USA PATRIOT Act.”  Among other provisions, the Act authorizes the FBI, or any police department deputized by the FBI, to compel immediate production of records from a library, including circulation and internet use records, without process of law or probable cause, the traditional showing required for any police search. 

 

WHEREAS, the PATRIOT Act further prohibits a library employee recipient of a demand for records under the Act from talking to anyone – except a lawyer – about the request, a prohibition which includes fellow employees; explicitly prohibits any notification to any patron that their records have been requested; and the Act pre-empts and overrides any state laws declaring library records confidential.

 

WHEREAS, the Commission of the Kent Memorial Library in Suffield believes that sections 214-216 of the PATRIOT Act are designed to undermine the public library tradition of patron anonymity and are a threat to political and religious freedom, and threat to a free and democratic society.

 

THEREFORE, in light of the foregoing considerations, the Commission of the Kent Memorial Library declares the following policy on the subject of Patron Anonymity, effective immediately:

 

1.      The Library shall retain no records of any kind, including non-tangible electronic or computer records, or hard copy or paper records (“Records”) relating to any patron, or containing any patron information, which are unnecessary to efficient operation of the Library.  Lending and inter-library loan records are maintained long enough to insure safe return of materials.  Patrons are advised, however, that the Library’s database search (computer card catalog) system and circulation records are connected to an offsite vendor system, beyond the Library’s control, so eradication of all patron information at these off-site locations cannot be guaranteed.

 

2.      The Library shall take affirmative steps to promptly and thoroughly destroy any Records relating to any patron, or including any patron information, which are unnecessary to the efficient operation of the Library.

 

3.      All Records, relating to internet or computer use shall be destroyed thoroughly, so as to eliminate any opportunity for recovery of any user information, and as promptly as is reasonably practicable, but in no event less than once per day of Library operations.  Patrons are advised, however, that no hardware scrub or similar program is used by the Library for this purpose, and complete eradication of all user information cannot be guaranteed.

 

4.      A sign shall be posted over the circulation desk, with letters large enough to be read by a patron at the circulation desk, stating that, under recently enacted federal law, patron anonymity cannot be guaranteed, or words to this effect.

 

5.      Any person making a request for Library information pursuant to the USA PATRIOT Act shall IMMEDIATELY and IN EVERY CASE be referred to the Director of the Library, or, that person is not available, the Associate Director, or, if that person is not available, the most senior staff member.  Library employees will be clearly advised of this policy and be trained to (1) interrupt any such request, and immediately leave the presence of the person making the request, after stating that only the Director is authorized to address requests for information under the PATRIOT Act; (2) to supply a copy of this Policy, which will be kept at or near the circulation desk, to the Requester.

 

6.      Upon learning of any request for records under the PATRIOT Act, the Director will immediately (1) ask to see the official identification and will photocopy the identification credential offered; (2) contact legal counsel for the Library, who, along with the Director, will be present for any interview or search conducted pursuant to the USA PATRIOT Act; and (3) keep a record of the request.  

 

 

 

 

Unanimously endorsed by the Library Commission of the Kent Memorial Library

 

May 13, 2003