The Council of the American Library Association strongly recommends that the responsible officers of each library, cooperative system, and consortium in the United States:
- Formally adopt a policy which specifically recognizes its circulation records and other records identifying the name of library users to be confidential in nature.*
- Advise all librarians and library employees that such records shall not be made available to any agency of state, federal, or local government except pursuant to such process, order, or subpoena as may be authorized under the authority of, and pursuant to, federal, state, or local law relating to civil, criminal, or administrative discovery procedures or legislative investigative power.
- Resist the issuance or enforcement of any such process, order, or subpoena until such time as a proper showing of good cause has been made in a court of competent jurisdiction.**
*Note: See also ALA Code of Ethics, point 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.”
**Note: Point 3, above, means that upon receipt of such process, order, or subpoena, the library’s officers will consult with their legal counsel to determine if such process, order, or subpoena is in proper form and if there is a showing of good cause for its issuance; if the process, order, or subpoena is not in proper form or if good cause has not been shown, they will insist that such defects be cured.
Adopted January 20, 1971; revised July 4, 1975, July 2, 1986, by the ALA Council.
In accordance with the ALA policy on confidentiality and specifications detailed in the Montgomery County Public Library Operations Policy, Staff and Volunteers of The Montgomery County Public Library will uphold standards of confidentiality in regard to patron and staff information. Library staff can not inform anyone, including public, patrons, friends, family (patron family or staff member’s family) about the materials checked out by patrons, activities performed by patrons, conversations by patrons, activities performed by staff members, conversations of staff members, or other personal/private information. Staff should be cautious when talking with patrons, other staff members, friends or family, or the media regarding personal events, situations, or activities within the library.
The following guidelines will help maintain personal privacy:
- Do not provide patron information to police or other officials without a warrant or other written documentation! When a warrant is presented, please advise the library director, current shift supervisor, or other designated appointed by the director or library board.
- When providing information to patrons about their account, try to speak in a manner that others in vicinity will not hear personal information. When contacting by phone, please assure that you are speaking with actual patron, and do not leave details about specific materials on answering machines, voice mail, or with other parties that offer to take a message.
- Do not share details of staff conversations, specifically name materials that staff have checked out.
- Do not share specific information about staff members, their contact information, or their specific schedule.
- Do not discuss patron/staff interactions, problems, or incidents loud enough in public library areas or at circulation desk so that patrons may overhear the discussion. ONLY discuss staff/patron situations when it is essential to give details to other staff member for safety or to provide follow-through in resolution to the issue.
Media & Marketing
According to Operations Policy Section 11, all printed and marketing materials should be reviewed and proof read before being shared with the public. All library marketing materials should including library logo and/or other identifying information.
Images of minors should only be utilized after documented consent of by parent or legal guardian.
Library policy and printed information materials may be provided upon request.
Legal Requests for Information or Records
The Library is a public place. Anyone visiting the library does so with the understanding that some activity in a public place is open to public view. For example, anyone in a public area of the building may be seen by other members of the public in the building. Video records of library visitors in public areas are open to public request. Members of the public may openly photograph or take video of public usage and visitors in the public library. However, there are privacy limitations on the ability of public photography or video as addressed in Operations Policy section 14.
No employee may provide any information, video, or photograph regarding library usage, other than as stated:
- For marketing purposes in public areas, with written consent for identifiable minors.
- Requested information includes only primary open public areas where people may or many not be identifiable (such as main library or parking lot)
- With prior approval of the Library Director or other appointed designee.
- As requested through legal documentation such as subpoena or search warrant provided by requesting official with proper identification.