Confidentiality of Library Records


It is the ethical responsibility of library personnel to protect the confidentiality and privacy of all library patrons.  According to Article III of the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records, “Confidentiality extends to information sought or received, and materials consulted, borrowed, acquired, and includes database search records, reference interviews, circulation records, interlibrary loan records, and other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities, or services.” (Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, American Library Association, July 7, 2006. (Accessed July 29, 2019) Document ID: 5c653c23-920b-b254-d94c 6dcf4ccd86c6)

In California, the privacy of library patrons is protected via statute in the Public Records Act, Cal Gov’t Code 6254, 6267 (Deering Suppl 2001). This statute specifically mentions “registration records” which are defined as “any information which a library requires a patron to provide in order to become eligible to borrow books and other materials” and “circulation records” which are defined as “any information which identifies the patrons borrowing particular books and other material.”

This means that any information on an individual patron record or any information regarding any person who borrowed any library book or other library materials is confidential and will not to be disclosed or shared by any library personnel unless by a court order under the Federal USA Patriot Act.  The following are examples of requests that are to be denied:

  1. One patron should not be given information about another patron.
  2. A professor asks to see if one of his/her students has requested a particular item on interlibrary loan.
  3. A patron says he/she has forgotten his/her ID card and wants to know what he/she has checked out.
  4. A parent, without a student’s permission, requests information about fines billed to student accounts.

These requests cannot be honored:

  • Requests for the circulation records of a faculty member, student, staff member or other library cardholders by anyone other than the cardholder.
  • Requests by a faculty member for the identity of students borrowing reserve materials.
  • Requests for the name of a person who has signed out a particular library item.
  • Requests for addresses, telephone or ID numbers or other personal information contained in library records.
  • Requests to review circulation records of a student suspected of plagiarism.
  • Requests to see interlibrary loan records.
  • Requests to reveal the nature of a patron’s reference request or database search.
  • Requests by a parent for information such as fines or other charges by the Library to a student’s account, without the student’s permission.
  • Requests from law enforcement authorities for the identity of anyone conducting research on a particular subject.

All registration and circulation records are confidential and should not be disclosed except as follows:

  • By a person acting within the scope of his or her duties within the administration of the library” e.g. library staff can perform necessary updating to patron records,
  • By a person authorized, in writing, by the individual to whom the records pertain, to inspect the records,”
  • By order of the appropriate superior court.”

Cal Gov’t Code 6267 (Deering Suppl 2001)

Note : Although Long Beach City College and the LBCC Library make every effort to protect the confidentiality of patron records and patron privacy, under the Federal USA Patriot Act (Public Law 107-56, section 215), College records and records of books and other materials a patron borrows from the LBCC Library may be obtained by federal agents with a court order.

Text-based on policies from Confidentiality of Library Records, Santa Clara University and Confidentiality of Records Policy, Cayuga Community College Confidentiality of Records.