State Privacy Laws Regarding Library Records

State Library Confidentiality Laws - Compilation of library privacy and confidentiality statutes

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have laws protecting the confidentiality of library records. Two states, Kentucky and Hawaii, have attorney generals' opinions protecting library users' privacy. The language of these provisions vary from state to state. The majority of these laws declare that a library user's records and information are confidential, and not subject to disclosure, unless certain conditions are met, such as a user's consent or the service of a court order. The ALA recommends that each library adopt a policy that acknowledges the state library confidentiality provisions and recognizes the confidentiality of information sought or received from library users, including a user's personally identifiable information. The policy should also recognize the confidentiality of any records or electronic data that disclose the materials consulted, borrowed, or acquired by a library user. Materials subject to privacy and confidentiality restrictions may include online search histories, database search records, ILS records or other circulation records, interlibrary loan records, and all other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities, programs or services, such as reference interviews.

Libraries should have in place procedures for working with law enforcement officers when a subpoena or other legal order for records is made. Any disclosure of records to law enforcement or other government agencies should only be done in accordance with library policy and the law. See How to Respond to Law Enforcement Requests for Library Records and User Information: Suggested Guidelines for more detailed information on how to respond to law enforcement requests for user information.

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

Updated November 2021

Updates to state privacy laws can be sent to Deborah Caldwell Stone, Director of the Office of Intellectual Freedom.