State Privacy Laws Regarding Library Records

The American Library Association encourages all librarians, particularly those in public libraries, to work with their local legal counsel to ensure they understand state confidentiality laws so they may respond quickly to any requests from law enforcement. Forty-eight of 50 states have such laws on the books, but the language varies from state to state. The ALA recommends that each library adopt a policy that specifically recognizes the confidentiality of information sought or received, and materials consulted borrowed or acquired by a library user. These materials may include database search records, circulation records, interlibrary loan records and other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities, programs or services, such as reference interviews. Libraries are advised to rely on existing laws to control behavior that involves public safety or criminal behavior.

Libraries should have in place procedures for working with law enforcement officers when a subpoena or other legal order for records is made. Libraries will cooperate expeditiously with law enforcement within the framework of state law.

For information on confidentiality policies, see "Developing a Confidentiality Policy," pp. 347–355, Intellectual Freedom Manual, sixth edition, 2001, and "Guidelines for Developing a Library Privacy Policy." This chapter discusses confidentiality and the law, state law protection of library records, what librarians can do, and writing, adopting, and implementing a confidentiality policy.

See also ALA’s existing American Library Association Privacy Policies and StatementsPrivacy and ConfidentialityPrivacy Tool KitPrivacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, and a Q&A on privacy and confidentiality.

Below are the links to the state privacy laws regarding library records: