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Confidentiality of Library User Records: Policy

Overview

The UT Health San Antonio Libraries respect the privacy rights of all customers regarding the use of library facilities. In general, the First Amendment, and the confidentiality of library records, takes precedence over everything except for national security, the threat of immediate injury or harm, and illegal activity.

Responsibility

All library staff with access to library user records are responsible for implementation of this policy.

Scope

This policy applies to all library records, including but not limited to records relating to registration for use of Koha, Ovid or EZProxy, circulation transaction records, computer database searches, use of electronic full-text resources, online search requests, interlibrary loan requests, reference queries, requests for photocopies of library materials, electronic article delivery requests, title reserve requests, use of library computers, web browser history, software, servers and the Internet, and the use of audiovisual materials.

Policy

Library user records will not be made available to any individual or to any agency of local, state or federal government, except under the following circumstances:

  1. The library may disclose personal records at its discretion if it is necessary to carry out library policy (i.e. borrower records may be turned over to University Police in the course of attempts to collect non-returned library materials).
  2. A library user may request his/her own records.
  3. The library may turn over library use records if the library is served a valid process, subpoena or court order by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor, or a National Security Letter (NSL). The Office of Legal Affairs is the appropriate office on campus to receive the process and will direct the library in complying with the valid process, subpoena, etc. Whenever possible, library administration will consult with the Office of Legal Affairs before turning over personally identifiable information.
  4. Staff may not provide a web browser history to anyone unless directed to do so by the UT Health SA Office of Legal Affairs.

Additional Resources

Texas Government Code, Section 552.124 (2000) Exception: Confidentiality of Records of Library or Library System.

Library Bill of Rights

The American Library Association (ALA) affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that there are basic policies that should guide their services.

The USA PATRIOT Act (ALA Website)

The USA PATRIOT Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) of 2001 became law on October 26, 2001.

ALA Policy Manual (c2002) 52.4 Confidentiality of Library Records

Library Computer Use Policy

 

Procedures

Process

  • Subpoenas and other documents issued by a court should be delivered by the server to the Office of Legal Affairs, not to the library.
  • If approached by a law enforcement officer or prosecutor wishing access to user records, library staff should not respond immediately, but should refer the officer or prosecutor to the person in charge of the library at that time. The requestor must show a subpoena, process, or court order.

Chain of Command

  • Library Director or Associate Library Director should be informed of the request and will will speak with the officer or prosecutor ro ask for a process, subpoena or court order.
  • Office of Legal Affairs (210) 567-2020 should be contacted for handling and further instructions.

Compliance with an Order

  • The Office of Legal Affairs will verify that the order is in proper form and has been issued with sufficient cause.
  • If no valid papers are presented, the library may refuse to turn over requested records but this determination should be made in consultation with the Office of Legal Affairs.
  • If the subpoena or court order is found to be valid, library staff will produce all records covered in the scope of that order.
  • Staff should follow the subpoena strictly and should not provide any records that are not specifically requested in the legal document.
  • It should be noted that because of the university’s records retention policy, limited retention of circulation records and routine maintenance of equipment such as computer hard disks, requested records may no longer be available. Once a valid legal request for a library use record has been made, if the record or records still exist, then the record should be retained and not destroyed.

"Gag" Order

  • Requests for library user records issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), as amended by the USA PATRIOT Act, may contain a “gag” order: the request must be kept confidential and staff may not discuss the incident except with a supervisor, the Senior Director of Libraries or the director’s representative, and the Office of Legal Affairs.
  • No information about the request may be disclosed to any other party including the library user whose records are the subject of the search.
  • Staff may not provide a web browser history to anyone unless directed to do so by the Office of Legal Affairs.