Right to Privacy

The Santa Clara County Library District recognizes its responsibility to protect each individual’s right to privacy at all levels of library service. The confidentiality of library records is regulated by California Government Code sections 6267 and 6254, subdivision (j).  To guarantee privacy for each individual regardless of age, California law provides for the confidentiality of patron use records.

California Government Code section 6254 (j) exempts the following records from disclosure:

Library circulation records kept for the purpose of identifying the borrower of items available in libraries, and library and museum materials made or acquired and presented solely for reference or exhibition purposes. The exemption in this subdivision shall not apply to records of fines imposed on the borrowers.

California Government Code section 6267 reads:

All patron use records of any library which is in whole or in part supported by public funds shall remain confidential and shall not be disclosed by a public agency, or private actor that maintains or stores patron use records on behalf of a public agency, to any person, local agency, or state agency except as follows:

   (a) By a person acting within the scope of his or her duties within the administration of the library.

   (b) By a person authorized, in writing, by the individual to who the records pertain, to inspect the records.

   (c) By order of the appropriate superior court.

As used in this section, the term "patron use records" includes the following:

(1) Any written or electronic record, that is used to identify the patron, including, but not limited to, a patron's name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address, that a library patron provides in order to become eligible to borrow or use books and other materials.

(2) Any written record or electronic transaction that identifies a patron's borrowing information or use of library information resources, including, but not limited to, database search records, borrowing records, class records, and any other personally identifiable uses of library resources information requests, or inquiries.

This section shall not apply to statistical reports of patron use nor to records of fines collected by the library.

In accordance with the law, the Library has adopted the following policies:

  • Every individual has a right to privacy regardless of age.
  • The Public Records Act (California Government Code section 6267) does not provide an exception for parents or guardians to obtain their children’s patron use records.
  • The Library cannot consider knowledge of someone’s Personal Identification Number (PIN) as implied consent in providing confidential information to someone other than the library card owner.
  • Records of library fines are public records (California Government Code 6254 (j)).

In accordance with the above policies, Library staff:

  • May release patron use records to only the library card owner, to someone with written authorization from the card owner, or by order of the appropriate superior court.
  • May change account information or cancel library card account only at the request of the library card owner, or at the request of the parent or guardian of a minor (age 17 or under) library card owner in his or her care, providing the parent or guardian can provide enough identifying information to verify the correct account (name plus address and/or birthdate). Parent or guardian may not change PIN information.
  • Will refer court orders and subpoenas requesting patron use records to the County Librarian.
  • May release balance due information to the public, but not specific details about the balance owed. May release the name, address and amount owed to a collection agency for purposes of collection.  The collection agency must agree to keep the address information confidential.
  • Will give a letter that explains library policies to minors who obtain a library card while accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. The letter will be mailed to minors who are unaccompanied when signing up for a library card with an encouragement to share the information with their parents or guardians.

Santa Clara County Library District Policy #11.01
updated 1/11/2012

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