Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association. The right to privacy is the right to open inquiry without having the subject of one’s interests examined or scrutinized by others. Confidentiality exists when a library is in possession of personally identifiable information about its users and keeps that information private on their behalf. Library patrons must not feel constrained in their use of library resources because they fear invasion of personal privacy. The existence of such a possibility inhibits free usage of library resources and facilities and is contrary to the General Laws of Massachusetts:
A town may establish and maintain public libraries for its inhabitants under regulations prescribed by the city council or by the town, and may receive, hold and manage any gift, bequest or devise therefor. The city council of a city or the selectmen of a town may place in such library the books, reports and laws which may be received from the commonwealth. That part of the records of a public library which reveals the identity and intellectual pursuits of a person using such library shall not be a public record as defined by clause Twenty-sixth of section seven of chapter four. Library authorities may disclose or exchange information relating to library users for the purposes of inter-library cooperation and coordination, including but not limited to, the purposes of facilitating the sharing of resources among library jurisdictions as authorized by clause (1) of section nineteen E or enforcing the provisions of sections ninety-nine and one hundred of chapter two hundred and sixty-six.
General Laws of Massachusetts Chapter 78, Section 7
The Fobes Memorial Library’s Trustees, Director, staff and volunteers will act to protect patrons’ right to privacy by holding library records confidential. This includes:
• Information an individual is required to provide in order to be eligible to use Library services or borrow materials.
• Information that identifies an individual as having requested or obtained specific materials or materials on a specific subject.
• Information that is provided by an individual to assist a staff member to answer a specific question or provide information on a particular subject.
No record in any form that is maintained by the Library and meets the criteria listed above will be made available to any individual, spouse, or agency of state, federal, or local government unless a subpoena, warrant, court order or other investigatory document is issued by a court of competent jurisdiction that shows good cause and is in proper form. Only the Library Director or members of the Fobes Memorial Library’s Board of Trustees are authorized to receive or comply with requests from law enforcement officers; legal counsel will be consulted before determining the proper response. All library staff and volunteers have been trained to refer any law enforcement inquiries to library administrators.
Information in a patron’s library record can be disclosed in the following circumstances:
• When parents, guardians, or custodians who present proper identification request the records of their minor children.
• At the request or consent of the individual who is the subject of the record or information.
• For library administrative purposes. Patron record information is available to members of the Board of Trustees and employees of the library for use in the ordinary conduct of library business.
Approximately every three months the Library Director will initiate the deletion of library patrons’ circulation history in coordination with the Massachusetts Library System.
Information that does not identify an individual and is retained for the purpose of studying or evaluating the use of the Library is not considered confidential and is not subject to this policy.
The library does not provide patrons’ personally identifiable information for commercial uses.
Library users who have questions, concerns, or complaints about the library’s handing of their privacy and confidentiality rights should file written comments with the Director of the Library. The Director and/or members of the Board of Trustees will respond in a timely manner and may conduct a privacy investigation or review of policy and procedures.
ADOPTED BY THE TRUSTEES OF THE FOBES MEMORIAL LIBRARY Revised Aug. 8, 2013