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Policy and Procedures Pertaining to Requests for Library   Records by Law Enforcement Agents/Officers

The Stewart Library has a responsibility to protect the privacy of its users and the confidentiality of information sought or received and materials consulted, borrowed or acquired by a library user. As an integral component of the academic community, the Library seeks to create and maintain an environment that is safe, comfortable, and supportive of learning and the pursuit of knowledge and information on any topic. In response to requests for or inquiries regarding information contained in library records the Library will uphold the privacy and confidentiality of users’ free access to information by relying on existing laws and library policies. Confidential library records will not be released or made available in any format to a federal agent, law enforcement officer or other person unless a court of competent jurisdiction has entered a court order in proper form after showing good cause by the law enforcement agency or person seeking the records.

Procedures

The following procedures will be followed by library personnel in response to requests for library records by federal agents, and state or local officers:

A. Response to law enforcement inquiries without a court order.

1. Immediately ask for and examine the ID of the agent/officer.
2. Explain that you are not authorized to deal with this issue.
3. Refer the agent/officer to the Office of the University Librarian.
4. If the Office is closed, offer to contact the University Librarian via telephone or suggest that
    the agent/office return when the University Librarian is available.

What will happen next?

The University Librarian will explain the library’s confidentiality policy and the state’s confidentiality law, and inform the agent/officer that user records are not available except when a proper court order in good form has been presented. If requested, he/she will arrange to meet with the agent/officer when University Legal Counsel or another colleague can be in attendance. The Office of the University Librarian will keep a record of any such inquiry and all subsequent legal action.

[FYI:  Without a court order, neither the FBI nor local law enforcement has authority to compel cooperation with an investigation or require answers to questions, other than the name and address of the person speaking to the agent/officer. Library personnel will not respond to informal requests for confidential information, in conformity with professional ethics, First Amendment freedoms, and state law.]


B. Response to law enforcement inquiries with a court order.

1.Immediately ask for and examine the ID of the agent/officer. Confirm the presence of the        court order.
2. Explain that you are not authorized to deal with this issue.
3. Refer the agent/officer to the Office of the University Librarian.
4. If the Office is closed, offer to contact the University Librarian via telephone or suggest that the agent/office return when the University Librarian is available.

What will happen next?

The University Librarian will accept the court order with an explanation that it must be referred to the University’s legal counsel for review. No further action will be taken without instruction from counsel. The Office of the University Librarian will keep a record of any such inquiry and any subsequent legal action.

C. Response to law enforcement inquiries with a Subpoena

1. Immediately ask for and examine the ID of the agent/officer. Confirm the presence of the subpoena.
2. Explain that you are not authorized to deal with this issue.
3. Refer the agent/officer to the Office of the University Librarian.
4. If the Office is closed, offer to contact the University Librarian via telephone or suggest that the agent/office return when the University Librarian is available.


What will happen next?

The University Librarian will accept the subpoena with an explanation that it must be referred to the University’s legal counsel for review. The University’s Legal Counsel will examine the subpoena for any legal defect, including the manner in which it was served on the library, the breadth of its request, its form, or an insufficient showing of good cause made to a court. If a defect exists, counsel will advise on the best method to resist the subpoena. The University Librarian will, through Counsel, insist that any defect be cured before records are released and that the subpoena is strictly limited to require release of specifically identified records or documents. Counsel will also require that the agent, officer, or party requesting the information submit a new subpoena in good form and without defects.

When the subpoena is served, the University Librarian will review the information that may be produced in response to the subpoena before releasing the information. Strict interpretation of the subpoena will be followed and The University Librarian will not provide any information that is not specifically requested in it. If disclosure is required, the University Librarian will ask the court to enter a protective order (drafted by the library’s counsel) keeping the information confidential, limiting its use to the particular case, and restricting access to those persons working directly on the case. The Office of the University Librarian will make record of any such inquiry and any subsequent legal action. No further action will be taken without instruction from counsel. The Office of the University Librarian will keep a record of any such inquiry and any subsequent legal action.


D. Response to law enforcement inquiries with a search warrant

[FYI:  A search warrant is executable immediately, unlike a subpoena or court order. The agent or officer may begin a search of library records as soon as the warrant is served.]

1. Ask for and examine the ID of the agent/officer.
2. Explain that you are not comfortable dealing with this issue and request that the search is delayed until you contact the University Librarian or the Systems & Access Services Librarian.

What will happen next?

a. The University Librarian or the Systems & Access Services Librarian will ask to have the University’s Legal Counsel present before the search begins in order to allow examination of the search warrant and to assure that the search conforms to the terms of the search warrant.
b. The University Librarian or the Systems & Access Services will not be present and the search will begin. In this case:

.
1. Examine the search warrant and ask for clarification as needed to comply with its terms.
2. Ensure that only the records identified in the warrant are produced and that no other records are viewed or scanned. (DO NOT volunteer information or records not identified in the warrant.)
3. Gather the exact information for the agent/officer. DO NOT let them rifle through library databases or records.
4. Record what is taken and other information that may be pertinent (the agent’s name, ID #, the warrant number, etc.).


E. Response to law enforcement inquiries with a search warrant Issued under the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (USA PATRIOT Act amendment)

1. The procedure for a regular search warrant applies (see “D” above).

[FYI:  However, a search warrant issued by a FISA court also contains a “gag order.” That means that no person or institution served with the warrant can disclose that the warrant has been served or that records have been produced pursuant to the warrant. The library and its personnel must comply with this order. No information can be disclosed to any other party, including the patron whose records is the subject of the search warrant. The gag order does not change a library’s right to legal representation during the search. The library can still seek legal advice concerning the warrant and request that the library’s legal counsel be present during the actual search and execution of the warrant.

[Permission to reproduce these guidelines for training and educational purposes has been granted.
These guidelines were prepared using information from the American Library Association’s website.]

(Approved by Library Council 04/22/03)

Updated December 14, 2004 . Please send comments to Ludwig Possie Web Administrator.
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