Library Patron Privacy Policy

Declaration Of Principles

Our members share library and computer resources to better serve the information needs of our communities.

    1. PALS Plus and its member libraries believe that free inquiry is an essential aspect of library service. We believe that upholding the right to privacy prevents the right to free and open inquiry from being compromised by having the subject of one’s interest examined by others.
    2. Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association. The courts have upheld the right to privacy based on the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. N.J.S.A. 18A:73-43.2 specifies that library records that contain names or other personally identifying details regarding the users of libraries are confidential and shall not be disclosed except if they are necessary to the operation of the library, the user requests disclosure, or disclosure is required pursuant to a subpoena issued by a court.
    3. Our commitment to patron privacy and confidentiality has deep roots not only in law but also in the ethics and practices of librarianship. In accordance with the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics: “We protect each library patron’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired, or transmitted.”

Patrons’ Rights Of Privacy And Confidentiality

    1. PALS Plus provides computer and telecommunication services to its member libraries that include maintaining a database of patron records and records of circulation transactions at our member libraries. We also provide links to electronic services and resources whose access is validated against patron records in our database. We acknowledge that these duties give PALS Plus the responsibility to secure the privacy and confidentiality of the information entrusted to us. We have established these Privacy Policies to enable us to execute this responsibility.
    2. We consider the intellectual pursuits of individuals using library resources, including library internet resources, to be confidential, regardless of the age of the individual. We will not produce any records we may have of such pursuits to any individual or agency unless compelled to do so by a court order.

Notice And Openness

  1. We freely share the privacy policies of PALS Plus with our member libraries. We share them with the public by posting them on the PALS Plus web site.
  2. Whenever policies change, notice of those changes is shared with our member libraries, who are encouraged to share them with their patrons.
  3. We avoid creating and retaining records that are not needed for the fulfillment of the mission of PALS Plus.
  4. For the purpose of identification and accountability for use of library materials, our member libraries collect and we retain information which may include, but is not limited to: patron’s name, library card number, address, phone number, gender, birthdate, and email address. Our libraries may also collect the name and contact information for the guardians of minors that are registered for library cards.
  5. We periodically purge from our system expired library cards, which have no outstanding fines or fees associated with them.
  6. Some member libraries may collect the names of those who wish to use library computers to access the Internet. We encourage these libraries not to retain this information longer than three days.
  7. Our computer system records information about transactions when patrons borrow materials at any of our member libraries, when materials they have borrowed are returned to any of our member libraries, and when and what library materials they request via holds placed by themselves or by library staff. Our computer system also calculates and tracks fines for overdue materials, fees for lost materials, and partial and complete payments of those fines and fees.
  8. Patrons may access their library account through our catalog interface. After authenticating their request by supplying their library number and a personal identification number (PIN), patrons can place holds, and learn the status of holds they have placed, when materials they have borrowed are due back, and the amounts of any fines and fees charged against their records.
  9. Library staff can access the same information patrons can. While library staff have no access to an individual patron’s borrowing history, they can access the identity of the previous borrower of returned library materials, so that if materials are found damaged or missing components, the previous borrower can be contacted.
  10. Our computer system maintains logs of transactions executed during the operation of the system. PALS Plus staff (but not member library staffs) can search these logs, and do so on request of library staffs to clarify circumstances surrounding disputed patron fees and fines or to investigate apparently anomalous computer system behavior.
  11. Information Required to Provide Library Services: Our member libraries contact patrons when materials on hold become available for pick up, and when borrowed materials are overdue. If the only information libraries have is the required information on the library registration card, these notices are done by mail or phone. With patron permission and patron supplied email addresses, many of our libraries send these notices via email. Email also enables them to send notices to alert patrons that material is coming due shortly. Email addresses have the same statutory protection as other patron identifiable information: Email addresses can only be released if needed for the conduct of library business, or with patron permission, or in response to a court order.