402 Main Street Greenfield, Massachusetts 01301
librarian@greenfieldpubliclibrary.org
(413)772-1544

Confidentiality of Library Records

The Library respects the right of library users to privacy and confidentiality, in accordance with Mass. General Laws, Chapter 78, Section 7, which states that circulation and registration records identifying the names, addresses, email addresses, and telephone numbers of library users, and the materials borrowed, are not public records. The intellectual pursuits of individuals using library materials or library computers is considered confidential information.

In accord with the law, the policy of the Greenfield Public Library is not to reveal the borrowing records, reserves or fine records to any person other than the owner of the library card. However the Greenfield Library does recognize that it may be necessary for a parent or legal guardian to be provided with information about his or her child’s library records (for example, when a child’s library materials have incurred fines, or the materials have been misplaced). In these cases, the parent or legal guardian who is financially responsible for the child’s library materials will be supplied with a list of items that are currently signed out to the child.

All persons, including young adults, who wish their library borrowing to remain private are advised to obtain a PIN (Personal Identification Number) at the library, so that they can access their borrowing record privately at a library or online home computer.

The library also respects the rights of users to privacy and confidentiality in their use of Internet computers. The library will not release the names of persons using Internet computers or information accessed on the web or via electronic databases by members of the public, except as required by law.

No records can be made available to any inquiries, governmental or otherwise, unless (1) a subpoena has been served by a court of competent jurisdiction and the library administration has consulted with Town Counsel to determine if it is proper to release the requested information, or (2) a search warrant has been issued under the Foreign Intellingence Surveillance Act, which is immediately executable. (See below Library Policy & Procedures in Response to the USA Patriot Act of 2001.)

Library staff should refer all formal requests for circulation or registration records to the Director.

Adopted by the Board of Library Trustees, April 9, 2002.

Library Policy & Procedures in Response to the USA Patriot Act of 2001

The Greenfield Public Library supports the efforts of our government to protect the country from terrorist acts and preserve our freedom and security. As a public library, we face the dilemma of having the responsibility of protecting the privacy of our patrons while responding to legitimate national security concerns. The Library recognizes the confidentiality of patron registration and circulation records, as stated in Mass. General Laws, Chapter 78, Section 7, and also respects the right of library users to privacy and confidentiality in their use of Internet computers. However, in matters of national security concerns, Federal law (specifically the Patriot Act) can supercede state law.

The GPL strives to create a library 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

The library will do its utmost to uphold the privacy and confidentiality of patrons’ free access to information. The library will rely on existing laws and library policies to control behavior that involves public safety or criminal behavior.

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
    • Greenfield Room Use Records
    • Inter-Library Loans & Holds Records
    • Reference Interviews

The GPL Policy & Procedures Regarding Information Access and Confidentiality

Catalog Search Records: These records refer to the searches of the collection a patron may conduct on the Public Access Catalog (PAC). The system utilized is provided by Innovative Interfaces, Inc. (III). 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 III servers, and the company could be requested to provide information to law enforcement officials without the knowledge of Greenfield Library staff or individual library patrons.

Circulation Records: Material is circulated via Millennium Circulation software from Innovative Interfaces, Inc. (III). 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. It is not possible to look up a patron’s card number and find out what they borrowed in the past. 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.) However, there is no direct link between a patron and an item, once the item has been returned.

Computer Use Records: The library provides public access to the Internet. Patrons provide their last name and library card number when reserving or using computers. Reservation and sign-up sheets with patron names are kept for one week as a safeguard in case of violation of the library’s Internet Use Policy that is discovered after the patron leaves. After one week, all sign-up sheets are destroyed. The history of patrons’ Internet research and activity is erased automatically every 24 hours.

Greenfield Room Use Records: The Library requests patrons to sign in prior to using the Greenfield Room as a means of controlling access to the unique and valuable historical material in the room. The sign-up sheets are destroyed at the end of one week.

Interlibrary Loan & Holds Records: Patrons may borrow items not owned by regional and area libraries via Inter-Library Loan (ILL). The library generates a paper 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 paper record is filed for 3 months in case of mail delivery problems, and then destroyed.

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.

The GPL Policy & Procedures for Complying with Law Enforcement

The GPL staff will comply with law enforcement when supplied with legal subpoena or 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, the head of circulation, or the head of technical services in that order of priority.) Do not disclose any information to that individual.
    • The director will ask to see official identification and will photocopy the id.
    • If the law enforcement official presents a subpoena, the library director will contact the town’s legal counsel for advice on how best to proceed. It is desirable for legal counsel to be present when the subpoena is executed.
    • If the law enforcement official presents a search warrant, it is executable immediately. The library director will notify legal counsel 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 will keep a record of all legal requests.
    • The library will keep a record of all cost incurred by any search and/or seizures.
    • 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, 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 observe what could reasonably be construed as a threat of imminent danger to life and limb, they are to contact law enforcement immediately. They should then contact the library director (or in his/her absence, the Assistant Director, Head of Borrower Services, or Head of Technical Services) and fill out an Incident Report form.

Adopted by the Greenfield Library Board of Trustees, May 13, 2003.