Michigan Library Privacy Act Update

January 23, 2020

First and foremost, we are grateful for all input that we have received from statewide librarians on SB611. The bill to amend 1982 PA 455, introduced by Senator MacGregor on October 29, was introduced without MLA input. MLA agrees that if these changes are to be implemented, it should be done when all voices (pro and con) have been heard, and all input has been taken into consideration. Through a very thorough vetting process beginning in November 2019, we believe that we have gained statewide and national insight into the support and the concerns that this update brings. The MLA Board will be voting on our position at the end of January, and we will communicate that with you quickly.

The true intent of the proposed revisions is to remove obstacles and barriers libraries face when dealing with crimes. We are in agreement that revisions to this Act must provide continued protections to patron privacy while removing the legal barriers we sometimes face when dealing with crimes that have occurred at our libraries.

Above all else, privacy is a core foundational value of libraries across the country. At all costs, we must protect the privacy rights of Michigan library patrons in their reading histories, materials borrowed, resources reviewed, or services used at the library. The current law’s protection of user privacy, by requiring a court order for the disclosure of circulation records and computer usage logs in the event of a crime, must remain unaltered, and it is our position that this is not negotiable.

But as we all know, libraries have an obligation to provide a safe and welcoming environment for the public that they serve. By updating the current Act we are providing the potential to make libraries safer by hastening the investigation of crimes committed in the library and on library property through video surveillance.

Many will agree that if updated, MLA and our partners must be vigilant in educating the field about the changes if adopted by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor. Many of you have stated that SB611 must not move forward as presented…we agree. MLA must present the best possible revisions for consideration by taking into account how it affects all libraries, in different ways, under different circumstances. This Public Act must also be easy to understand by all libraries and all library personnel and governing bodies. It must clarify existing language, and at the same time clearly provide guidelines with which to balance patron privacy with patron and staff safety.

Based on your input, MLA is finalizing revisions with our attorney that address the following:

  • CRIME: The definition of “crime” must be included within the act to distinguish the types of crime that are causing challenges within our library systems. We recommend that we follow already established protocol as defined by section 5 of 1931 PA 328, MCL 750.5.

  • PROTECTION OF LIBRARY RECORDS: Under no circumstances should library personnel or the governing body be able to share library records, reading history or other personal information with law enforcement without a warrant.

  • SURVEILLANCE VIDEO: A clarification that surveillance video is not considered part of a library record so that this can be turned over to law enforcement immediately when a crime is committed as long as it does not disclose what a user has read, borrowed, or viewed. The amended Act should also include a statement concerning sharing personal knowledge without utilizing library records.

  • THIRD-PARTY VENDORS: Our national library association – ALA – recommends we update the Act to include Third-Party Vendors. This language strengthens the Act and provides even more privacy protection for users.

  • GOVERNING BODY: Update language to be inclusive of all library types in describing the governing body.

  • EXIGENT CIRCUMSTANCES: We want to define exigent circumstances which would always allow law enforcement to immediately gain access to all library records.

  • LIABILITY: We are still clarifying MLA’s position on who should be held accountable when library records are shared.

Be watching for member communications in early February concerning the MLA board’s position. This is a lengthy process and we are doing our due diligence and trying to get this in front of you in a timely manner. Once again, our sincere gratitude to those that have provided input. We have taken your concerns and support into consideration as we’ve moved forward to determine MLA’s position.

If you would like to have a conversation, please do not hesitate to contact Executive Director, Deborah E. Mikula at [email protected] or by phone at (517)394-2774 ext. 224.

 


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