Library Records and Privacy Issues

The Waterford Township Public Library protects our patrons’ right to privacy and does so in compliance with both the Michigan Library Privacy Act and the U.S. Patriot Act.

The Michigan Library Privacy Act provides for:

  • The confidentiality of certain library records
  • The selection and use of library materials
  • The protections of adult patrons’ First Amendment Rights.

The Michigan Library Privacy Act, MCL 397.602(2)(i), defines a “library record” as a “document, record, or other method of storing information retained by a library that contains information that personally identifies a library patron, including the patron’s name, address, or telephone number, or that identifies a person as having requested or obtained specific materials from a library.”  Library records might include but are not limited to:  circulation records, written reference requests from patrons and others, virtual reference requests (e-mail and live), and computer usage metadata (before patron workstations are cleared after each patron’s session).  The Michigan Library Privacy Act specifically excludes library records from Freedom of Information Act requests.    

The U.S. Patriot Act covers written orders from Federal agents only.  Its purpose is to expand the powers of federal law enforcement agencies. Primarily it is aimed at case investigations that involve foreign intelligence and international terrorism. It has a broad spectrum that amends 15 other federal laws by strengthening them.  It does not abrogate the Michigan Library Privacy Act in terms of orders from state or local agents.  A federal search warrant or court order may not be challenged.