Patron Privacy and Confidentiality

Your privacy is very important to the Dwight Foster Public Library. The library strives to create an environment that is:

  • A safe and crime free place
  • A place for learning and pursuit of knowledge and information on any topic
  • A place where patrons can ask any question and discuss any topic

To protect patron privacy, we support and enforce the laws of Wisconsin, which require that library records are kept confidential.

Wis. State Statue 43.30 requires that library records may only be disclosed:

  1. with the consent of the individual library user
  2. to a parent or legal guardian of a juvenile under 16 years of age
  3. by court order
  4. to persons acting within the scope of their duties in the administration of the library or library system,
  5. to other libraries (under certain circumstances) for interlibrary loan purposes

The Dwight Foster Public Library also supports the efforts of our government to protect the country and its people. As a public library, we face the dilemma of having the responsibility of protecting the privacy of our patrons while responding to legitimate safety and security concerns. The library will rely on existing laws and library policies to control behavior that involves public safety or criminal behavior. It should be noted that in matters of national security, federal law (specifically the Patriot Act) can supercede state law.

About the USA Patriot Act of 2001

HR-3162 became Public Law 107-56 in response to the events of 9/11/01. The full title of the law is: Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.The Act may provide law enforcement broader boundaries when investigating information accessed and transmitted by patrons with regards to national security concerns. Access to patron information may include but not be limited to:

  • Catalog Search Records
  • Circulation Records
  • Computer Use Records
  • Dwight Foster Public Library Meeting Rooms Use Records
  • Interlibrary Loans & Holds Records
  • Reference Interviews

Catalog Search Records: These records refer to the searches of the collection a patron may conduct on the computer catalog. Once a search is conducted, the software does not retain a copy of the search on library computers. Records of the search may exist on the servers, and the library’s software vendor could be requested to provide information to law enforcement officials without the knowledge of Dwight Foster Public Library staff or individual library patrons.

Circulation Records: Material is circulated via library circulation software. The circulation software tracks materials currently checked out, automatically erasing a reader’s borrowing record once a book is returned and all fines are paid. Unless a patron signs up for “My Reading History” service, it is not possible to look up a patron’s card number and find out what they borrowed in the past unless there was a problem associated with the circulation of that item. If there was a problem associated with the item, information may be stored in the patron’s circulation history. It is possible to look up the record for a specific item and obtain limited information about a patron (specifically, who last borrowed the item and whether a fine was paid.)

Computer Use Records: The library provides public access to the Internet. Patrons log in with their library and PIN when using the computer. Computer sign-in data may be kept on file but is considered confidential. Individual searches are not stored by the library, however, users of library Internet services should realize they can have no expectation of privacy while using the Internet as this is a public, shared service and law enforcement sometimes has the ability to retrieve data stored in a computer when investigating a crime.

Dwight Foster Public Library Meeting Rooms Use Records: The Library requests patrons to sign in by name prior to using its meeting rooms. The library may keep records of the names of the organizations that use the meeting rooms for a period of time to assist with understanding the use of the facility. The library will treat the name of the individual who signed for the meeting room as confidential in the same manner as that person’s use of materials or other library services.

Interlibrary Loan & Holds Records: Patrons may borrow items not owned by the Dwight Foster Public Library via interlibrary loan. The library generates a record that includes patron information in order to initiate this borrowing. Once the materials are returned and all appropriate fines and/or fees are paid, the record is archived for 3 months and then removed from the system.

Reference Interviews: A reference interview occurs when a patron looking for information is interviewed or questioned by a library staff member in order to narrow down the specific information needed. If a patron name and number is taken by phone and patron information is written down, the paper record is destroyed as soon as the requested information is delivered. No paper record is kept after the query has been successfully answered.

Procedures for Complying with Law Enforcement

The Dwight Foster Public Library staff will comply with law enforcement when supplied with a legal subpoena or search warrant.

Staff Procedures:

  • If anyone approaches staff alleging to be a law enforcement official requesting information, s/he will immediately contact the director. (In the director’s absence, staff will contact the assistant director. In the event that neither can be reached, the highest ranking person on duty is responsible for working with the requestor.) Staff should not disclose any information to law enforcement personnel.
  • The director or her/his representative will ask to see official identification and will photocopy the ID.
  • If the law enforcement official presents a subpoena, the library director or her/his representative will contact the city attorney for advice on how best to proceed. It is desirable for legal counsel to be present when the subpoena is executed. In the event that the city attorney is not available, the assistant city attorney will be contacted. In the event neither can be reached, the legal counsel for the American Library Association will be contacted.
  • If the law enforcement official presents a search warrant, it is executable immediately. The library director or her/his representative will notify the city attorney and will attempt to have legal counsel present during the search to be sure that the search conforms to the terms of the warrant. If time does not allow for this, the search must be allowed to proceed. The library director or her/his representative will cooperate with the search to ensure that only the records identified in the warrant are produced and that no other users’ records are viewed or scanned. Library staff should not interfere with the search and/or seizure of library property.
  • The library director or her/his representative will inventory any items removed from the library as a result of the search warrant.
  • The library will keep a record of all legal requests.
  • The library will keep a record of all costs incurred by any search and/or seizures, including time spent by library staff assisting in the search or the inventorying of items.
  • If the court order is a search warrant issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (USA Patriot Act amendment), the warrant also contains a “gag order” which means that no person or institution served with the warrant can disclose that the warrant has been served or that records have been produced pursuant to the warrant. The library and its staff must comply with this order. No information can be disclosed to any other party except legal counsel, including the patron whose records are the subject of the search warrant.

Emergency Disclosures of Communication

If in the normal course of business, the library staff observes what could reasonably be construed as a threat of imminent danger to life, the highest ranking person on duty is to contact law enforcement immediately. She/he should then immediately contact the library director.

Adopted by the Dwight Foster Public Library Board of Trustees, 2/5/96, Revised 12/1/03, 9/9/13