RAQs: Recently Asked Questions

Topic: NY Statute CPLR 4509. Library records - 10/31/2017
Can a library report a crime based on use of library resources while honoring CPLR 4509 (assuring ...
Posted: Tuesday, October 31, 2017 Permalink

MEMBER QUESTION

Can a library report a crime based on use of library resources while honoring CPLR 4509 (assuring the confidentiality of circulation records)?

WNYLRC ATTORNEY'S RESPONSE

CPLR 4509[1] is a critical caisson in a library’s foundation, protecting users from those who would draw negative inferences based on access to the library.  The law sets out, in bold, simple language, that librarians shall not disclose such records to law enforcement (or others), unless there is an appropriate subpoena, court order, or disclosure is required by law.

That said, there will be instances when serious patron misconduct might require a report to law enforcement—but the mere act of reporting it will disclose a circulation record (for instance, a patron signing onto a library computer that is then used for a crime).  How does a library report the criminal behavior, while honoring the letter and spirit of 4509?

The American Library Association has compiled a great array of information on balancing these priorities, and it is clear that the answer lies in the library’s policies.  I will not re-create this excellent list of considerations here, but when it comes to this particular question, it is clear every library should have:

  • Policies regulating conduct in the library (a policy on internet use can play a part in this);
  • A policy setting the conditions for loss of patron privileges when misconduct impacts the community or library operations (this policy must have appropriate due process and levels of appeal);
  • A policy, or well-established internal procedure, for reporting misconduct impacting operations of the library to law enforcement; this policy or procedure should consider how 4509 will be honored when such a report must be made;
  • A policy for responding to law enforcement requests for circulation records (not based on a library’s report).  This policy should include the library’s process for evaluating law enforcement requests;
  • All policies and procedures referring to “circulation records” should have clear and consistent language regarding what “circulation records” are (both under 4509, and in that particular library[2]).

The New York Library Trustees Association has a thorough database of policies addressing, from a variety of libraries, addressing these topics.  But just use these for inspiration, since policies must be crafted, evaluated, and periodically revised to serve the mission, legal requirements, and operational needs of your particular library. Ideally, your lawyer should not only review the final product, but be ready to assist with any law enforcement request, is a good idea.

A library that makes sure it has addressed the points in the above bullets, and has trained their staff on these priorities, is ready to protect circulation records, while safeguarding the “proper operation of the library!”



[1] Library records, which contain names or other personally identifying details regarding the users of public, free association, school, college and university libraries and library systems of this state, including but not limited to records related to the circulation of library materials, computer database searches, interlibrary loan transactions, reference queries, requests for photocopies of library materials, title reserve requests, or the use of audio-visual materials, films or records, shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed except that such records may be disclosed to the extent necessary for the proper operation of such library and shall be disclosed upon request or consent of the user or pursuant to subpoena, court order or where otherwise required by statute.

[2] Note the ALA guidance on steps to minimize creating/retaining circulation records.

 

Tags: Policy, Criminal Activity, Laws

Year

0

2016 4

2017 24

2018 29

2019 42

2020 68

Topics

501c3 2

Academic Libraries 2

Accessibility 4

ADA 8

Archives 1

Association Libraries 2

Behavioral misconduct 1

Board of Trustees 4

Branding and Trademarks 1

Broadcasting 1

Budget 1

Cease and desist 1

Children in the Library 1

Circular 21 1

Contact tracing 1

CONTU 2

copyleft 1

Copyright 72

COVID-19 51

CPLR 4509 3

Crafting 1

Criminal Activity 1

Data 2

Defamation 1

Derivative Works 3

Digital Access 9

Digital Exhibits 1

Digitization and Copyright 11

Disclaimers 3

Discrimination 1

Dissertations and Theses 1

DMCA 2

Donations 3

E-Books and Audiobooks 2

Ed Law 2-d 1

Education Law Section 225 1

Elections 2

Emergency Response 42

Employee Rights 8

Ethics 4

Executive Order 3

Fair Use 29

Fan Fiction 1

Fees and Fines 3

FERPA 5

First Amendment 1

First Sale Doctrine 3

Forgery and Fraud 1

Friends of the Library 2

Fundraising 1

Hiring Practices 1

Historic Markers 1

HRL 1

Identity Theft 1

IRS 1

Labor 3

Laws 20

Liability 1

LibGuides 1

Library Buildings 1

Library Card Policy 1

Library Cards 1

Library Programming and Events 9

Licensing 3

LLCs 1

Loaning programs 1

Local Organizations 1

Management 16

Meeting Room Policy 6

Memorandum of Understanding 1

Microfilm 1

Movies 5

Municipal Libraries 5

Music 12

Newspapers 3

Omeka 1

Online Programming 11

Open Meetings Law 1

Oral Histories 1

Overdrive 1

Ownership 1

Parodies 1

Personnel Records 1

Photocopies 15

Photographs 1

Policy 35

Preservation 2

Privacy 11

Property 3

PTO, Vacation, and Leave 1

Public Access 1

Public Domain 7

Public Health 1

Public Libraries 12

Public Officers Law 1

Public Records 2

Quarantine Leave 2

Reopening policies 8

Retention 3

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Ripping/burning 1

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Salary 2

School Ballots 1

School Libraries 5

Section 108 2

Section 110 2

Section 1201 1

Security Breach 2

Sexual Harassment 2

SHIELD Act 2

Smoking or Vaping 2

Social Media 4

SORA 1

Story time 3

Streaming 13

SUNY 1

Swank Movie Licensing 3

Taxes 4

Teachers Pay Teachers 1

Telehealth 1

Template 3

Textbooks 3

Umbrella Licensing 2

VHS 4

Voting 1

W3W 1

WAI 1

Work From Home 1

Yearbooks 2

Zoom 2

The WNYLRC's "Ask the Lawyer" service is available to members of the Western New York Library Resources Council. It is not legal representation of individual members.