Policy on User Privacy & Responding to Requests for User Information
USA Patriot Act & Libraries
On October 25, 2001 Congress passed the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA Patriot) Act. This Act increases the ability of local, state, and federal law enforcement officials to obtain search warrants and subpoenas to gain access to records from libraries, bookstores, and Internet service providers.
For more information on the USA Patriot Act, see:
UW-Whitewater Library Policy on Privacy
It is the policy of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Library to protect the privacy of all users to the extent permitted by law. The Library endorses the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association, which states, "We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received." The Library circulation system (Alma) severs the link between the item and patron record when the material is returned. Public workstations are set up not to retain historical searches.
For more information on the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association, see:
Requests for User Information
The UW-Whitewater Library may receive requests from private individuals or local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies for information about Library users. The Library will not disclose information about individual users to any requester unless required to do so by law. This information may include:
- the identity of users (names, addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers)
- material users have borrowed from or through the Library
- online services used
- reference consultations conducted in person or via phone, e-mail or live chat
This type of information is confidential and may only be released under very specific circumstances, which are addressed below.
Requests from a Private Individual About Another User's Records
Under no circumstances will confidential information be released to a private individual who is not the "owner" of the information. Library staff may not release any information about a user to any other individual, including spouses or family members. Library staff will immediately notify their supervisor when they receive such inquiries about someone else's activities.
Requests from a Private Individual About His/Her Own Records
The Library staff may tell a user which materials he/she checked out to himself/herself once the staff member has verified the user's identity.
Requests from a Law Enforcement Officer Without Written Documentation (i.e., subpoena or search warrant)
Andersen Library is under no obligation to provide information in response to this type of request. In the interest of protecting the confidentiality of our users, no information will be provided. Library staff will refer the requesting officer to their immediate supervisor who will immediately contact UW-Whitewater Library Administration, who in turn will contact UW System General Counsel.
Request from a Law Enforcement Officer With a Subpoena
Andersen Library will observe the following procedures if the FBI or other law enforcement officer presents a subpoena to the Library:
- The Library staff will refer the requesting officer to their immediate supervisor who will contact the Library Administrative Office immediately. Do not provide the requested information.
- Administrative Office Staff will contact UW System General Counsel for a review of the document's legal sufficiency, which will determine whether the Library will release any information. Inform the law enforcement officer of this procedure.
- During evening or weekend hours, when the Library Administrative Office is closed, contact one of the following, in the order listed:
- Paul Waelchli
- Barbara Bren
- Patricia Fragola
- If these people are not available, then the senior supervisor on duty will contact the UW-Whitewater Provost:
- Dr. Susan Elrod
Request from a Law Enforcement Officer With a Written Warrant for Search and Seizure
The Library staff will need to comply with this request immediately upon presentation of the warrant. If paper documents or computer hard drives are part of the warrant, law enforcement officers are empowered to remove those items from the Library immediately, without the Library or UW System General Counsel's permission. The Library staff will not interfere with any officer executing such a warrant, but will inform the officer that s/he must leave an inventory of what s/he is removing. The Library staff will contact their supervisor without delay and inform him/her of the search warrant. UW-Whitewater Library Administration will contact UW System General Counsel, or on a weekend, the Provost. Be aware that when such a search warrant is executed, a "gag order" may also be invoked, which means that Library staff may be forbidden to discuss or publicize outside of the Library even the fact that a search warrant was executed. UW System General Counsel will provide further instructions to the UW-Whitewater Library staff on appropriate actions.
Wisconsin Statute 43.30 Governing the Privacy of Library Resources
For clarification, the state statute on library resources and privacy is quoted below. However, under certain circumstances, federal law may supersede state law. [Wisconsin Statute 43.30 states "...the library's documents or other materials, resources or services may not be disclosed except by court order or to persons acting within the scope of their duties in the administration of the library or library system, to persons authorized by the individual to inspect such records..."]
For the full text of this statute, please see:
- Libraries (Chapter 43, Wisconsin Statutes)
- Using Andersen Library
- Borrowing & Returning Library Materials
- Fines & Charges for Lost Materials
- Library Computer Use Policy
- Telephone Use Policy
- Television Use Policy
- Library Instruction Lab Policy
- Public Service for Electronic Depository Publications Policy
- Library Security Policy
- User Privacy & Requests for User Information Policy
- Requests for Information from Library Staff Policy