Thursday, May 3, 2007

Privacy Rights of Minors

Well, I made sure to get to THIS one on time. I've been frantically blogging Nancy's session, and saved it as a draft so I can be ready for this seminar on

As a parent of teens and preteens and a school library teacher for an elementary school, I have a very different view of intellectual freedom from the minor's point of view then my friends do in the public arena.

This whole trip to MLA was to increase my awareness of other areas of librarianship outside the library teacher role.

So, this should be an interesting foray into an area of controversy which interests me.

A group of kids with "SPLAT" t-shirts on are in a panel to the front of me.
Shhhhhhhhhhhhh, it's beginning!

Theresa is speaking,
She will present the speaker Ruth to all.
The session is filling up fast.
More chairs are called for.
I'm feeling very smug for getting to THIS one on time, and having both a cushy seat and a cozy, warm computer on my lap. Now I know why they call them laptops. I hate typing on the tabletop in front of me.

Back to the meeting:

We're reviewing the law:

Info about patrons can not be shared with others outside the people in the library who needs to use it. Or, if you are served with a warrant or subpeona.

This does not specify the patron's age.

Previous roundtables discussed this law and its issues. They didn't solve any.

Firstly, parent/child relationship: The library is not a part of this relationship.

Library/parent/child relationship: The library is a part of this relationship.
We can't tell the parent which book the child has out.
Even though parents have to pay overdue bills, we as librarians cannot discuss child's book choice with the parent.

Now we'll talk about ways to deal with this/and the issues:

If you put an age limit on borrowing cards, are you limiting the flow of information to that child?
How about parental permission to get a library card?
Does the staff understand the law?
Staff has to put away their personal opinions, and follow the law...

The ultimate financial responsibility rests with the parents. Some librarians feel that it is ok to be confidential, until money is owed.

It is tough with small libraries where you are now changing precedent: You always told Johnny's parents what Johnny had before, but you don't know Suzie's mom, so you wouldn't share Suzie's reading record with her.

Another question that was raised is that different communities all have different policies.

Toward the end of this workshop, we will discuss how to make policies that are positive,
and workarounds that might work.

The three parts that make up a policy:

Rationale: why is it necessary. Rationale statements can include the law, the ALA
code of ethics, confidentiality,

Statement of Policy: Clear and concise statement: At X Library, we do not share information about others.

She then sequed into Minors as a special group of people that this statement should apply to.

Add-on Conditions: Overdue or replacement notice gets sent out.

Fine limit: Minor can't use library if there is a fine over x amount due.

Now, she'd like us to work in groups to draft our own policies.

I am intent on asking the person next to me, who is the children's librarian at my local library, what their policy is.

However, she is part of this committee, and very busy, so, I naughtily added onto my Nancy P. blog. Now I'm going to figure out how to have two windows open at one time. A multitasking Blogger. Tsk, Tsk.

I'm sure the workshop is going to reconvene now. It is very loud in here.

Shhhhh...she's back! and she's trying to regroup us.

Now she is asking for policies to share as drafts. She also said that her own library does not have such a statement. Her town will determine tonight whether her library will stay open.

This is so terrible and sad.This sad state of affairs does not end with library teacher cuts.

Okay, I'm going off-track.

Back to the meeting: People are speaking up about the law, and the actual meeting of policy and patron. You get stuck with these one on one conversations, and you need a way out.:

1. Teach them how to use the library computer to see records for themselves.

2. Release the information to the person holding the card.

3. Urge the minor to share info with parents.

4. Note of approval from parent.

Respect: this institution respects your right to confidentiality. Strenghthening of parent/child/library relationship.

5. Make it clear when child gets card what the ramifications are: In print!

6. Talks before story hour, brochure, maybe.

7. Give examples (scenarios)

Grey area: implied consent. Mr. Jones comes in to pick up Mrs. Jone's book, and has her card.

Issues: make contract with parent, can't make a contract with a minor.

Your library has to tweak each policy.

What is the appropriate age?

Obviously, there are many shades of grey. These issues won't be solved today...


Such a problem. As a mother, being told I can't have this information iwould incense me. Yet, I understand the policy.

Problems raised: Non-custodial parent comes in with child.

Minor comes in without their card.

Minor comes in with an au pair or other caregiver. Child may not have a parent.

Seperate friendships from librarianship. Be professional. The scenario: You are friends with Mary Rose. Her children come in and take out books you feel are inappropriate. Can you say something?

This was a workshop with thorny issues. At the end, as expected, I came away with an increased awareness.

That's a wrap.

Now, to "sell it" to Board

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