Privacy is a key value to libraries. This means when the Racine Public Library collects information about its visitors, it’s our job to ensure their data is protected. The short version of our privacy obligation is that:
- We only share your records with our team members, libraries we work with on your interlibrary loans, or people you ask us to — unless a court order requires otherwise.
- If you’re younger than 16, we have to share your information with your caretaker if they ask.
- We can share security footage with law enforcement, but only if it relates to investigations about illegal activity.
- If you have unpaid fines and/or lost items, we can share your name, contact information, and information about the fines or items with collection agencies and, sometimes, law enforcement.
To get into the specifics, read on below.
Wisconsin Statute 43.30 — Public Library Records
Records of any library which is in whole or in part supported by public funds, including the records of a public library system, indicating the identity of any individual who borrows or uses the library’s documents or other materials, resources, or services may not be disclosed except by court order or to persons acting within the scope of their duties in the administration of the library or library system, to persons authorized by the individual to inspect such records, to custodial parents or guardians of children under the age of 16 under sub. (4), to libraries under subs. (2) and (3), or to law enforcement officers under sub. (5).
A library supported in whole or in part by public funds may disclose an individual’s identity to another library for the purpose of borrowing materials for the individual only if the library to which the individual’s identity is being disclosed meets at least one of the following requirements:
- (a) The library is supported in whole or in part by public funds.
- (b) The library has a written policy prohibiting the disclosure of the identity of the individual except as authorized under sub. (3).
- (c) The library agrees not to disclose the identity of the individual except as authorized under sub. (3).
A library to which an individual’s identity is disclosed under sub. (2) and that is not supported in whole or in part by public funds may disclose that individual’s identity to another library for the purpose of borrowing materials for that individual only if the library to which the identity is being disclosed meets at least one of the requirements specified under sub. (2) (a) to (c).
Upon the request of a custodial parent or guardian of a child who is under the age of 16, a library supported in whole or part by public funds shall disclose to the custodial parent or guardian all library records relating to the use of the library’s documents or other materials, resources, or services by that child.
- (a) Upon the request of a law enforcement officer who is investigating criminal conduct alleged to have occurred at a library supported in whole or in part by public funds, the library shall disclose to the law enforcement officer all records pertinent to the alleged criminal conduct that were produced by a surveillance device under the control of the library.
- (b) If a library requests the assistance of a law enforcement officer, and the director of the library determines that records produced by a surveillance device under the control of the library may assist the law enforcement officer to render the requested assistance, the library may disclose the records to the law enforcement officer.
- (a) Subject to par. (b) and notwithstanding sub. (1m), a library that is supported in whole or in part by public funds may report the following information as provided in par. (c):
- 1. Information about delinquent accounts of any individual who borrows or uses the library’s documents or other materials, resources, or services.
- 2. The number and type of documents or materials that are overdue for each individual about whom information is submitted under subd. 1.
- (b) If a public library discloses information as described in par. (a), the information shall be limited to the individual’s name, contact information, and the amount owed to the library.
- (c) A library may report the information as described in par. (a) to any of the following:
- 1. A collection agency.
- 2. A law enforcement agency, but only if the dollar value of the individual’s delinquent account is at least $50.
The American Library Association's "Intellectual Freedom Manual"
5.3. Confidentiality and Coping with Law Enforcement Officers: Fundamental Principles
Confidential library records should not be released or made available in any format to a federal agent, law enforcement officer, or other person unless a court order in proper form has been entered by a court of competent jurisdiction after a showing of good cause by the law enforcement agency or person seeking the records.