Confidentiality Policy - General Information

In consideration of:

  • Council of the American Library Association’s strong recommendation that the responsible officers of each library formally adopt a policy with regard to confidentiality of library patron records;
  • ALA Policy Manual 54.15–Code of Ethics, point 3, which states “Librarians must protect each user’s right to privacy with respect to information sought or received, and to materials consulted, borrowed or acquired;”
  • Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, which prevents schools from distributing students educational records to third parties without a student’s consent; and
  • Illinois Library Records Confidentiality Act, P.A. 83-179, effective January 1, 1984 which states: “The registration and circulation records of a library are confidential information. Except pursuant to a court order, no person shall publish or make any information contained in such records available to the public.”

The U of I Library formally recognizes:

  • That all records identifying the names, social security numbers, or I.D. number of library patrons are confidential in nature;
  • That such records are not to be revealed to anyone other than the patron in question without either the express written permission of the patron in question or the adherence to proper legal and University procedures regarding required access to such information;
  • That library employees are encouraged not to keep records with personally identifiable information, unless that information is necessary, and to destroy such records as soon as possible.
  • That the confidentiality of patron records requires that such records should be consulted by library employees only for LEGITIMATE purposes such as locating or recalling library materials, processing overdue notices and fines, adding or deleting names to the database,  making collection development decisions, resolving billing matters, or investigating violations of Library circulation policies, including but not limited to, the following:

    Legitimate Consultation of Patron Records

    • expired I.D. number with overdue items still charged
    • patrons who repeatedly claim to have returned books
    • patrons who have manipulated the system to set their own due dates outside the Library’s established patron loan periods
    • patrons with outstanding Library accounts who have been referred to collection
  • Library employees may not view patron records for such purposes as idle curiosity, personal interest, or general monitoring.
  • Special requests for confidential information to be used for research purposes shall be addressed to the University Librarian.

EXAMPLES OF REQUESTS FOR LIBRARY INFORMATION THAT IS CONFIDENTIAL AND MUST NOT BE HONORED.

This list is intended to provide examples of possible violations of confidentiality of library information and is by no means inclusive.  Any request for confidential information from patron records coming from a law enforcement officer or investigative agent of the state or federal governments, MUST be referred to the University Librarian.

CIRCULATION AND PATRON RECORDS

  • A request for the circulation records of a faculty, student, staff or other library card holder by someone else.
  • A request by a faculty member for the identity of students who borrowed reserve items.
  • A request to review the circulation records of a student suspected of plagiarism.
  • A request to see interlibrary loan borrowing records.
  • A request for addresses, phone numbers, I.D. numbers or other personal information contained in the borrower database.
  • A request to see a list of individuals who are not members of the university community but who have been granted library borrowing privileges.
  • A request by a parent for information such as fines or other fees by the library to Students Accounts Receivable without the student’s permission.

OTHER EXAMPLES

  • A request for the name of the person who has signed out a particular item.
  • A request to review the identity of persons who have used a study room, listening room, study carrel or CD-ROM workstation.
  • A request to reveal the nature of a library user’s reference request or database search.
  • A request for the names of persons who have used audio-visual materials.
  • A request for a list of items photocopied for or faxed to a particular Library user.
  • A request for a list of suggested acquisitions submitted by a particular Library user.
  • A request from law enforcement authorities for the identity of anyone conducting research on a particular subject.

[Directive No. 13; Issued by the Library Administrative Council; Effective date: October 1992]

Social Security Numbers

In compliance with campus directives on the privacy of the social security numbers (SSNs) of faculty, staff, and students, the library is no longer using social security numbers.

Library users’ SSNs will not be entered into the library’s integrated library system, and library staff will use other search options, such as the Library Account Number or faculty/staff/student 7-digit ID number, to identify a borrower’s record.

Library users should never be asked to provide their SSN in order to receive any library service.