Confidentiality of Library Records


The Paul Pratt Memorial Library (“PPML”) Board of Trustees adheres to the principles set forth in the American Library Association’s Policy on the Confidentiality of Library Records, its Policy Concerning Confidentiality of Personally Identifiable Information, and the Code of Ethics. These principles espouse that privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought and free association; and, that the intellectual pursuits of patrons using library resources should not be subject to the scrutiny of others. PPML keeps no permanent record of Internet sites visited, electronic databases used, or information searches performed by patrons. 

The Paul Pratt Memorial Library is dedicated to protecting the privacy of its patrons to the fullest extent of the law. In compliance with Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 78, Section 7, which mandates the confidentiality of library records, PPML does not release personally identifiable information (circulation and interlibrary loan records, database and Internet search records, the nature of reference queries, or any other information related to the use of library materials, services and facilities), to any governmental or civilian inquiries. However, because certain other laws, most notably the USA Patriot Act (P.L.107-56) supersede the state confidentiality statute, the PPML may be required to disclose confidential patron information in accordance with law in response to either a subpoena for documents or search warrant. The USA Patriot Act also imposes a requirement that the fact that documents have been sought by government officials not be disclosed.

Staff Procedures

If anyone approaches a member of the library staff, indicates that he or she is a law enforcement official, and requests patron records of any kind, the staff member should not supply any information but rather immediately contact the Library Director or administrator in charge.
  • The Library Administrator should ask to see official identification and photocopy it.
  • If a law enforcement official presents a subpoena, the Library Administrator should immediately contact legal counsel. Legal counsel will advise how best to proceed.
  • If a law enforcement official presents a search warrant, the Library Administrator should not interfere with the law enforcement official but should immediately contact legal counsel.
  • The fact that a subpoena or warrant has been served must not be disclosed to any other person, other than to the Library Administrator and legal counsel. Library personnel should not speak about these matters to anyone, including co-workers and library trustees.
  • The PPML will keep a record of all legal requests and any attendant costs incurred as a result of any search and/or seizure.
  • If any incidents of this nature occur on weekends or evenings when no library administration is present, immediately contact the Library Director via home or cell phone.
Adopted by the PPML Board of Trustees, May 10, 2006

1. A subpoena is a legal demand requiring that specific documents or records be delivered at some time in the future and does not require immediate action. A search warrant would permit law enforcement officials to take immediate possession of the documents or records sought.