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

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Should a circulation desk refuse to give any patron information to anyone, even law enforcement personnel, without a subpoena? Lisa Buckley & Lorilie Roundtree
 

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To: Laura Norvig From: Lisa Buckley and Lorilie Roundtree Re: Privacy of patron records

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

Encyclopedic Resources: This question has to do with the privacy or confidentiality of patron records. A good place to begin research is with West's Encyclopedia of American Law, 1998. Other legal encyclopedias and Black's Law Dictionary are also good sources. The subjects to review include:

  1. Privacy pp.161-166, vol. 8 (West's)
  2. Freedom of Information Act pp. 101-103, vol. 7 (West's)
  3. Records and Recording Laws (66 AmJur 2nd 36,41, 46.7)
  4. Invasion of Privacy, Disclosure of Private Facts (28 AmJur 395)
  5. Witnesses (98 C. J. S. 448)
  6. Witnesses (2 Witkin Cal. Evid. @ 1255)
Statutory Resources: Information may be gleaned from several resources including the Constitution, the US Code, and the California Code.
  1. 4th, 5th, and 9th Amendments to the Constitution
  2. 5 USCA 552(b)
  3. California Public Records Act (Cal. Gov. Code @ 6250 et seq.)
Case Law: Numerous cases were found through citations in articles and from using LEXIS.
  1. Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) 381 US 479
  2. National Security Archive v. Federal Bureau of Investigations (1991) 759 F. Supp 872.
  3. Steve Brown, On Behalf of Himself and All Others Similarly Situated, and Board of Trustees of the Public Library of Des Moines, IA, Appellants, v. Dan L. Johnston, Polk City Attorney, and Gerald Shanahan, Chief, Division of Criminal Investigation of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, State of Iowa, Appellees 328 N.W. 2d 510; 1983 Iowa Sup. LEXIS 1375.
  4. Guard Publishing Co., Petitioner on Review v. Lane County School District No. 4, Respondent on Review 310 Ore. 32; 791 P.2d 854; 1990 Ore. LEXIS 141.
  5. City of Hemet v. Superior Court 37 Cal. App. 4th 1411; 1995 Cal. App. LEXIS 824.
  6. Quad/Graphics, Inc. v. Southern Adirondack Library System 174 Misc. 2d 291; 664 N. Y. S. 2d 225; 1997 N. Y. Misc. LEXIS 493.
Articles or Books: The following items were found using LEXIS, Findlaw, and other databases.
  1. "Privacy and Librarians: An Overview" Robert G. Weiner, .
  2. "Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records" ALA 1970.
  3. Lee, Janis. "Confidentiality from the stacks to the witness stand" American Libraries, 19(6), 444.
  4. Library Patrons & the Law by Arlene Bielefield and Lawrence Cheeseman, Neal- Schuman: New York, 1993.
  5. "Brown v. Johnston: The Unexamined Issue of Privacy in Public Library Circulation Records in Iowa." Iowa L. Rev. 535 Jan. 1984.
  6. "NYU Supreme Court Project: Appendix: Constitutional Law Appendix." 59 NYUL Rev. 1560 Dec. 1984.
  7. "Out of the Sunshine and into the Shadows: Six Years of Misinterpretation of the Personal Privacy Exemption of the Kentucky Open Records Act." 71 Ky. L. J. 853 1983.
Back to List of Legal Questions Last Updated: October 15, 1998