San Jose State University LIBR 220-01 Libraries and the Law
School of Library & Information Science Mary Minow

Legal QuestionsBibliography Author
From a circulation desk: Should it refuse to give any patron information to anyone, even law enforcement personnel, without a subpoena? Andrew Gurthet

Lisa Nash

There are two bibliographies for this question.

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Question: From a circulation desk: Should it refuse to give any patron information to anyone, even law enforcement personnel, without a subpoena?

Encyclopedic Resources:

A California patron without a legal background may prefer to start with a law dictionary or secondary law sources for background and additional information. Such sources could include Black's Law Dictionary, Law Dictionary for Non-Lawyers, California Jurisprudence, Witkin's Summary of California Law, and ALR (American Law Reports). Relevant subject headings might include:

  1. Libraries, Library
  2. Public records

In this case, neither the law encyclopedias or ALR furnished useful information.

Electronic Resources: (some suggestions)

  1. California code may be researched via findlaw ( or NOCALL ( which leads to California Law (
  2. Case law may be researched via findlaw ( or through fee-based legal databases such as LEXIS-NEXIS or WESTLAW.
  3. Relevant Law Review articles may be researched via findlaw ( or through a variety of fee-based electronically published law reviews or services such as LEXIS.

Statutory and Case Law Resources:

  1. A brief search of LARMAC (consolidated index to the constitution and laws of California) via the subject heading Library and subheading Records led to the following references: One can use this reference to look at the statute in West's Annotated California Code or Deering's Annotated California Code to find legislative history and possible related cases. In this case, no cases on point were identified.
  2. A brief search of the index of California Forms of Pleading and Practice of subject heading Libraries yielded a reference to Privacy. Following this reference, California Forms of Pleading and Practice provides a summary of the California law pertaining to library circulation records as well as referencing GOV 6254. This reference book may be used to locate relevant case law, statutes, or forms. In this case, only the above mentioned California statutes were identified.

Law Review and Trade News Articles:

A brief search of LEXIS-NEXIS yielded a number of articles which do not necessarily discuss California cases, however, they may be of interest or lead to other cases on point.

  1. 65 NYU L. Rev. 1532 Ulrika, E. A. (1990). The FBI's library awareness program: Is big brother reading over your shoulder? New York University Law Review, 65, 1532.
  2. 69 Iowa L. Rev. 535 Hinz, C. M. (1984). The unexamined issue of privacy in public library circulation records in Iowa. Iowa Law Review, 69(2), 535-550.
  3. 30 Am. Univ. L. Rev. 275 Wilson, M. K. (1980). Surveillance of individual reading habits: Constitutional limitations on disclosure of library borrower lists. American University Law Review, 30(1), 275-321.
  4. 3 Georgia State Univ. L. Rev. 443 McClellan, J. (1987). Library records: Provide for confidentiality and non-disclosure. Georgia State University Law Review, 3(2), 443-445.
  5. 81 Law Library J. 733 Kennedy, B. M. (1989). Confidentiality of library records: A survey of problems, policies, and laws. Law Library Journal, 81(4), 733-767.
  6. 81 Law Library J. 769 Johnson, B. S. (1989). "A more cooperative clerk": The confidentiality of library records. Law Library Journal, 81(4), 769-804.

    Back to List of Legal QuestionsLast Updated: October 15, 1998