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Michigan Library Privacy Act - MLA Advocacy Priority Area

In October 2019, Senator MacGregor introduced SB611 to amend the Michigan Library Privacy Act, 1982 PA 455. The intention of his bill was to enable libraries to work with law enforcement when the library is a victim of a crime. The Michigan Library Association took time to do our due diligence to review the changes since this revision affected all libraries -- school, academic and public -- throughout the state. With input from the library community, MLA was instrumental in moving this significant legislation through to signature by the Governor Whitmer in December 2020.

The newly revised Michigan Library Privacy Act removes obstacles and legal barriers libraries sometimes face when a crime has been committed in the library while providing for continued protection to one of their core foundational values… protecting patron privacy, in their reading histories, materials borrowed, resources reviewed, or services used at the library.

  • The bill defines crime, defines law enforcement officer and who is considered an agent

  • The bill clarifies that a library record does not include video surveillance and that video surveillance can be turned over to law enforcement without a court order if it shows no identifying library records or library activities. It also clarifies that without going into a library record, that personal knowledge, like a name or where someone lives, may be shared with a law enforcement officer.

  • The bill redefines who is liable, and allows the courts to grant equitable relief, if warranted.

Since 1982, there have been many unclarified points within the Privacy Act – librarians, library board members, attorneys and others disagree with its interpretation and we believe that the current act clarifies those misconceptions that are prevalent in communities across the state and sometimes even in libraries five miles down the road from each other. The world has changed since 1982 (before video, before cell phones, before email, before wifi) when this law was first enacted.

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

 

 


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