Libraries and Photos of Patrons

Q. My library board would like to know if ALA has a policy in relation to taking pictures of children or adults in the library and then using them for promotional purposes, including posting them to the online photo sharing web site, Flickr. We love to share our events, but we're concerned about copyright.

A. The short answer is that ALA does not have a policy in this area, though our A Communications Handbook for Libraries (PDF) does suggest using photographs to increase the visual impact of a news story. Using photographs requires adherence to procedures to protect the rights of the photographer as well as the privacy of the subject of the photographs, particularly if you are photographing children. Use permissions for photos are usually obtained by a photo release form.

If you plan to use the photos online, whether on your own website or on social media, include that information in the release form. Check with your library's public relations or communications specialist--or even legal counsel--to see if a parental release form already exists. If there is such a form, make sure that it covers Internet usage. With regard to children, some organizations and schools use a standard release signed by the parent or legal guardian at the time of registration in a particular program.