4.001 Privacy and Confidentiality of Patron-Identifiable Records

Replaces 11/20/2007

As a public library, the Arlington Heights Memorial Library is a government institution bound by the United States Constitution.  The library’s confidentiality policies aim to uphold the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly and association, and the constitutional right to privacy, protecting library customers from government intrusion or dissemination of personal information about which they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The library recognizes its responsibility to protect its customers’ intellectual freedoms by maintaining the confidentiality of all records and information concerning each customer and his or her use of library materials, facilities and services.  The Illinois Library Records Confidentiality Act confirms this duty with respect to library registration and circulation records.

All patron-identifiable information is strictly confidential.  This includes all records, files, computers and electronic media that might contain such information.

Patron-identifiable information refers to a wide range of information kept by the library, but most importantly includes any information that links a customer to use of particular library materials or services, or the customer’s choices, taste, interest, or research.  More broadly, patron-identifiable information is any information which:

  • Refers to a customer by any identifiable characteristic (e.g., by name, address, telephone number, email address, customer number, license number, social security number or other identifying numbers, or by employment information); or
  • Provides, or could be used to determine, any information about a customer’s library use.  This means all types of registration and circulation records and anything that contains registration and circulation records, including computers, computer components, disks and other electronic storage media, email, temporary Internet files stored in a computer, computer sign-up sheets or other facility-use logs, inter-library loan requests and records, customer requests to reserve, recall, or obtain certain materials, reference librarian notes pertaining to customer requests or assistance, and correspondence with customers.  Even records which do not include a customer’s name, but refer to some other identifiable characteristic, such as the customer’s library card number, are patron-identifiable.

Patron-identifiable information does not include statistical records relating to use of the library or its materials and services that cannot be used to identify particular customers or information concerning behavioral issues in the library’s records regarding a customer.

Any staff member who is unsure whether certain information is patron-identifiable or whether a certain record or thing could contain patron-identifiable information should contact the Executive Director or a Library Privacy Officer.

Confidentiality of patron-identifiable information is protected by the following policies:



Staff will under no circumstances disclose any patron-identifiable information about any customer to the public, the press, or to any government agency, or even to the customer’s own family members.  Staff should not permit anyone access to, or a view of, any non-public computers, files, or records which might contain patron-identifiable information.  Staff may disclose patron-identifiable information only under the following circumstances:


A customer may have access to any records the library holds about him or her, if the customer presents his or her library card or current government-issued photo identification with the customer’s home address.

  B.  If the customer is a minor, the minor’s parent or legal guardian may have access to any records the library holds about the minor, if the minor’s library card is presented.

Customers who are not physically present (such as customers contacting the library via email, chat, text, or telephone) who provide the names and correlating library card numbers of library customers can be provided with the same information available through the AHML website when customers log in with names and correlating library card numbers.


To provide the following information to law enforcement officers;




The name and description, if personally known to the staff member, of any person who has committed, is committing or threatens to commit a crime affecting library staff or members of the Board of Library Trustees, library customers or users, or library property; and

To the extent the staff member is a witness to such a crime, any other information relevant to the crime that is personally known by the staff member.

  E.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, patron identifiable information may be disclosed to a collection agency and/or law firm used by the library.  The library requires any third-party service provider’s assurance that appropriate procedures are in place to prevent the unauthorized release of confidential information to others.

When contacting a customer, patron-identifiable information (such as the title or subject of a requested item available to be picked up) may not be left on an answering machine, voice mail or email to the customer, unless designated by the customer as being an acceptable notification method.  The library cannot be responsible to maintain confidentiality in the notification process if these methods are selected by the customer.

The Executive Director or a Library Privacy Officer should be contacted immediately if a staff member:


Is approached with or learns of any subpoena, court order, warrant or other legal process directed to the library or relating to library property; other requests for patron-identifiable information;


Learns that certain patron-identifiable information may pertain to a crime (e.g., finding child pornography on a computer); or


Believes any patron-identifiable information has been improperly disclosed or may be at risk of being improperly disclosed; or


Has any question about the confidentiality policy.



Only the Board of Library Trustees, the Executive Director and Library Privacy Officers are authorized to disclose any patron-identifiable information under circumstances other than those listed above.

The library will generally refuse to disclose any patron-identifiable information unless required to do so by a subpoena, court order, warrant or other process appropriate under the circumstances which is properly issued and authorized by federal, state or local law relating to civil, criminal or administrative discovery procedures or legislative investigatory power.  Any costs incurred by the library due to compliance with any such subpoena, court order, warrant or other process will be charged to the agency seeking it.

The library will disclose patron-identifiable information requested by a sworn law enforcement officer in writing in emergency situations as defined by IL Public Act 95-0040.  The requests for information must meet all of the following four conditions:


A sworn law enforcement officer states that it is impractical to get a court order as a result of an emergency situation;


There is probable cause to believe that there is imminent danger that someone will be physically harmed;


The information requested is limited to identifying a suspect, witness, or victim of a crime; and


The information does not include any registration or circulation records that would indicate materials borrowed, resources reviewed, or services used at the library.


A sworn law enforcement officer must complete an “Officer’s Request for Confidential Library Information” form.  Information provided is limited to identifying a suspect, witness, or victim of a crime.  It excludes any registration or circulation records that would indicate materials borrowed, resources reviewed or services used at the library.

There are also several limited exceptions which permit or even require the library to disclose voluntarily certain electronic communications under the Federal Electronic Communication Privacy Act.  This law permits the library in certain circumstances to disclose the contents of certain electronic communications, such as email, temporary Internet files and other content transmitted, received, viewed, downloaded or printed on a library computer.  The Board of Library Trustees, the Executive Director or a Library Privacy Officer may divulge the contents of an electronic communication:


To an addressee or intended recipient of the communication;


In any way consistent with the consent of the originator or an addressee or intended recipient of the communication; or


To a law enforcement agency:


If the contents were inadvertently obtained by the library and appear to pertain to the commission of a crime; or


If the library reasonably believes that an emergency requires immediate disclosure of the information without delay.


Federal law requires the library to report possible violations of child pornography laws to the Cyber Tip Line at the National Center for Missing and Exploited children (www.cybertipline.com).  Reports received by the Cyber Tip Line are forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.  The library’s attorneys should be consulted when feasible if there is any doubt whether certain material is child pornography or whether a certain act is a violation of child pornography laws.  The library is protected from liability in the event of good faith disclosure to the Cyber Tip Line.

If law enforcement asks the library to retain certain electronic communications in storage (such as on a computer hard drive, disk or other storage medium), it must preserve such communications for at least 90 days following the request, and for an additional 90 days if the request is renewed.  However, the library will require the appropriate legal process before providing access to the preserved communications.