Access to Information
1. The public, both adults and children, has free access to all library information. It is deemed the responsibility of parents and/or guardians to determine what their children, and only their own children, may read. Parents are free to accompany their own children to the library if they wish to monitor and/or restrict their access to certain materials. The selection of materials will not be restricted by the possibility that young people may obtain materials that their parents may consider inappropriate. School groups are welcomed on a first-come, first- served basis and are encouraged to notify the Library Director or Youth Services Librarian in advance of arrival
2. Access will be denied only for due cause as determined by the Library Director for abuse of privileges or infringement of stated behavioral guidelines pursuant to posted policy. Patrons who do not follow the Behavior Guidelines of Brownell Library and are warned three times by the staff may be asked to leave the building. Individuals denied access have the right to appeal to the Library Board of Trustees using the Denial of Access forms available at the Circulation Desk.
Borrowing and Lending Privilege
1. The Brownell Library serves residents of the Village of Essex Junction and, in addition, serves other members of the larger community, either by accepting validated Homecards from area public libraries or offering temporary cards to those members of libraries that are not part of the Homecard program, on a case by case basis. Procedures for becoming a patron at the Brownell Library are available in the Procedures Manual at the Circulation Desk.
2. Borrowing privileges will be assured for patrons who respect library property, including timely return of library materials and respecting the rights of other patrons. Procedures for dealing with non-compliance are available in the Procedures Manual at the Circulation Desk.
3. Borrowing privileges will be denied only for due cause, as determined by the Library Director, for abuses of the privilege such as destruction of property, negligence in returning library materials when due, or conduct which interferes with the rights of others.
4. If materials are not returned, the library expects payment for the purchase of the materials or a replacement copy deemed acceptable by the Library Director or the Youth Services Librarian. The library will not accept payment until a bill has been sent. No refunds will be given after the materials are paid for.
5. Returned items irreparably damaged will be paid for or replaced by the borrower. The Library Director or Youth Services Librarian will be the final arbiter of whether an item is irreparably damaged.
6. The Brownell Library may lend materials to other libraries in the state or country for their members’ use without charge, subject to the rules and regulations of the Brownell Library and in accordance with the American Library Association Interlibrary Loan Code. Such libraries shall be held responsible for the safe return of books lent by the Brownell Library.
Computer and Internet Access
1. All patrons of Brownell Library, regardless of age, have equal access to information provided by computer and Internet access.
2. The Brownell Library’s policy on the use of computers and access to the Internet is the same as for the borrowing of books: parents and guardians of children are responsible for the appropriate use by children of the Library’s resources, and the Library assumes no responsibility for supervising users who are minors.
3. The Library is not responsible for the quality or content of information encountered on the Internet. The Library also assumes no responsibility for any claims, liabilities, actions or damages to personal property arising from use of any library-owned or leased electronic services, or resulting from the use of data made available through electronic information services. Illegal acts involving Library computing resources, for example, the viewing of child pornography, may also be subject to prosecution by local, state or federal authorities.
Background, Philosophy, Rationale
The American Library Association, in its Code of Ethics, states that libraries in the United States are in a position to
Influence or control the selection, organization, preservation, and dissemination of information. In a political system grounded in an informed citizenry… (libraries are) committed to intellectual freedom and the freedom of access to information.
Libraries have a responsibility to foster the free flow of ideas and information in their communities. The Brownell Library takes most seriously this responsibility to ensure intellectual freedom, and recognizes the critical need to protect the privacy and confidentiality of its users. This means that the Brownell Library will not reveal, except upon receipt of a valid and enforceable court order, subpoena or other binding legal demand (hereafter “binding legal demand”) information about users – what they read from our collections, what their areas of research might be, or what resources or services they consult, use or access (hereafter “user information”). The Brownell Library fully subscribes to the professional standard stated in the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association:
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.
Support for the protection of library records is found in the ACT RELATING TO THE CONFIDENTIALITY OF LIBRARY PATRON RECORDS (Sec. 1. 22 V.S.A.§§171-173), which provides that “a library’s patron registration records and patron transaction records shall remain confidential unless authorized by other provisions of law. The library’s officers, employees, and volunteers shall not disclose the records, except in specific listed situations which provide for information needed to conduct library business, by written permission of the patron, to a custodial guardian of a minor under 16 years or in response to a judicial order or warrant. “
In recognition of that public policy against open public access to library patron records, and in light of what we consider our ethical obligations as librarians, we shall not voluntarily, in the absence of a binding legal demand or extraordinary and emergent health or safety threats, provide third parties with access to user information.
Confidential library records have long been accessible to law enforcement officials through orderly legal channels. However, passage by Congress of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act, Public Law 107-56) gives law enforcement officials freer access to library user records, and increased ability to install devices on computer workstations to monitor activity. Furthermore, it prohibits patron notification when certain types of surveillance are underway. This legislation has caused libraries, including the Brownell Library, to review their written policies and practices regarding privacy of patron records, to rethink and codify record-keeping practices, and to ensure that staff have coherent procedures to follow should official requests for information identifying individuals come to the library.
1. Policy on Records Creation and Retention
The library does not collect or retain user information beyond what is needed for essential library operations or to protect the library collections (e.g., information necessary for contacting someone about materials he or she currently has signed out or for which a bill might be outstanding). Only staff and trained volunteers have access to personally identifiable information stored in the library’s computer systems.
The library does not retain online records of Internet transactions (Web site or chat room visits, or e-mail messages). Computer workstations in the libraries are designed to protect user privacy – regularly erasing search histories and user passwords on a cyclical basis as well as with each system restart. Computer sign in sheets are shredded once they are used for compiling library statistics.
Library administrators regularly review record-keeping practices, and staff and volunteers are trained to understand library practices regarding privacy and confidentiality.
2. Policy on Giving Information About Library Users
Without binding legal demand, and/or written permission of the patron involved or formal request by custodial guardian of a patron under 16 years, Brownell Library and its staff will not provide user information requested by a third party. “User Information” includes: name, mailing address, telephone, e-mail address and Brownell Library barcode, and records of resources and services used by an individual including, but not limited to: library materials borrowed or consulted, reference requests or other requests for information, database search records, interlibrary loan records, computer workstations used, and the content of computer activity.
Procedures for Handling Requests for Library Records or Information About Library Users
The Brownell Library has established the following protocols to deal with requests for library user information:
Staff procedures for handling requests from individuals who are not law enforcement officers
When any individual including village or town staff members presents herself to any staff member and requests information, the staff member should inform the individual that according to Brownell Library policy, this information cannot be provided without a binding legal demand or signed permission form on file with the library. If she has further questions, she should be referred to the Director’s office.
Staff procedures for handling requests from law enforcement officers or other parties in possession of purportedly binding legal demands
When an individual presents himself or herself to any staff member or volunteer as a law enforcement officer or as someone bearing a binding legal demand, and requests user information about library patrons, the staff member should
- Ask to see identification
- Ask the officer if he or she has binding legal demand.
- Call the Director’s office and ask to speak with her. Advise the Director or senior staff in charge if the individual has presented identification and a purportedly binding legal demand to obtain user information.
- Direct the individual requesting information to speak with the Director who will follow the procedure below.
AFTER DIRECTING THE LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER TO THE DIRECTOR, THE STAFF MEMBER MUST NOT INFORM ANYONE ABOUT THE REQUEST, UNLESS/UNTIL AUTHORIZED TO DO SO BY THE DIRECTOR.
If the Director or Assistant Director is not available, the staff member should contact one of the following persons and direct the individual requesting the information to speak with him or her:
- City Manager
- City Attorney
If the staff member cannot reach the Director or any other individual, he/she should contact the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (ALA OIF) at 1-800-545-2433 ext. 4223. Do not identify yourself. Simply say, “We need legal advice.” An ALA lawyer will assist you. After speaking with the lawyer, do not inform anyone else of the request unless authorized to do so by the ALA lawyer.
3. Director or Staff in Charge procedure for handling requests from law enforcement officers
If the individual does not present photo identification and/or a binding legal demand, the Director or Staff in charge should:
- Review and make a copy of whatever identification information the individual does present;
- Advise the individual that the library cannot comply without appropriate identification and documented legal authorization;
- Direct the individual to the Village Manager and/or the Village Attorney.
If the individual does present appropriate photo identification and a binding legal demand, the Director should:
Read the document and copy identifying information presented by the individual
and contact village attorney who will advise the Director about his/her legal responsibilities to respond to the demand, and about procedures for responding to the person seeking the user information. Counsel will also advise about any applicable restrictions concerning communications with the user or others about the legal demand and the library’s response to it.
American Library Association. Code of Ethics. Chicago: ALA, June 28, 1995.
Accessed: November 3, 2003.
Privacy & Confidentiality in Libraries. Chicago: American Library Association and the Illinois Library Association, July 2002. http://www.ila.org/pdf/privacy.pdf Accessed: November 3, 2003.
Vermont Statutes Annotated Online. 22 V.S.A. §§ 171-173
1 V.S.A. §§ 317(c) (19)
Accepted by the Brownell Library Trustees January 20, 2009
It is the intent of the Brownell Library to afford staff and library trustees the opportunity to attend workshops and professional meetings pursuant to the Vermont Department of Libraries Standard in order to keep up to date with current library trends.
The Library Trustees will collaborate with the Village Manager on the hiring, evaluating and disciplining of the Library Director with the understanding that the Village Manager has the final decision- making authority and any disciplinary action will remain confidential.
Accepted by the Library Trustees Sept. 21, 2004