Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


Privacy Issues in Libraries - Mary Minow

Materials from this presentation will be available at librarylaw until April 30th.

Mary Minow launched straight into a discourse on Section 215 of the Patriot Act as soon as the program started. She seemed to assume that the audience was familiar with specific details of the law - which I am embarrassed to admit that I am not. During the course of the presentation, details became more clear, but I think I'll be visiting her blog to see exactly what is what. In fact, I'm going there now to see what exactly the first few minutes of the presentation was about! (there were many sound issues and she glossed over many details)

According to the testimony given by Alberto Gonzales at the Senate Judiciary hearing on April 5, 2005: No library records have been retrieved using Section 215 orders. That said, in the footage Minow showed Gonzales stated that the FBI has had the cooperation of libraries to date - which implies that they're getting what they want without having to rely on Section 215.

So what happens if the police or the FBI do come to your library (please remember that I'm just reporting on what Minow told us and that she's not giving legal advise, either)?

Verify the individual's identity
If a police officer or an FBI agent comes to your library requesting information, make sure they are who they say they are. Look at their badge (don't touch it, apparently that bothers them). Call the local police. Call the FBI. (Check the phone book for the number of the place you're calling - don't call the number the individual provides.)

Ask for a copy of the warrant or subpeona.

Get the copy of the warrant or subpeona to your attorney.

Ask for a brief delay until your team arrives. You should have a team made up of the library director, a tech person who is capable of extracting the necessary information from the system, and the library's lawyer. You should also have notetakers who are not on the team.

Only provide the information that is specified in the warrant.

Search Warrants vs Subpeonas

Search warrants are immediately executable. You might be able to delay the officer or agent by asking them to wait until your team of responders arrives (lawyer, director, tech person) but you cannot refuse to give the information.

Subpeonas can wait
- in many cases up to five days. If someone gives you a serach warrant you definitely have time to call your director.

Records vs Observations

Library staff should not give records but may provide law enforncement officials with observations. So telling what Ms. Smith checked out last week is not okay, but saying that she was wearing white before Memorial Day is okay. Got it? That said, lots of people can't seem to stop talking once they start talking so encouraging staff to keep their thoughts to themselves so that they don't accidentally say, "Yes, officer, you can access our complete database" might not be a bad idea. Remember: No-one is allowed to stop you from speaking with the law enforcement people if you so desire.

[edited by Sophie to fix rassin' frassin' html.]


  • At 12:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi - a couple of corrections
    1) the footage showed FBI Director Robert Mueller saying they've had library cooperation. For streaming video of their testimony (via PBS Newshour excerpt), see http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/terrorism/jan-june05/anti-terror_4-5.html

    2) Subpoenas can wait - in many cases up to five days. If someone gives you a SUBPOENA you have time to call your director. (NOT A SEARCH WARRANT - those are immediately executable...you can try to get a delay, but legally you are not entitled to the delay)

    Mary Minow


Post a Comment

<< Home