Responsible Adminstrator: Dean Library Services
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Privacy of library records is a central tenet of the profession as affirmed by the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics and upheld by state law (Florida Statue 257.261).
This principle is incorporated in the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001 (Public Law 107-56), which President Bush signed into law on October 26, 2001. The act enhances and strengthens the powers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to investigate criminal acts, particularly domestic acts of terror. In particular, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) lowers the standards for courts to approve surveillance of foreign intelligence gathering. For libraries, this eases the federal requirements for law enforcement to obtain warrants to search library records.
Rather than having to meet the historical standard of “probable cause,” the court need only be shown that the subject of the search is part of a terrorism investigation. The Act also allows for the issuing of an order which is valid anywhere in the US. FISA also expands the use of ‘roving wiretaps.” Taps are no longer confined to a particular line, but can rove wherever the target of the investigation goes. Also the tap can be applied to computers using the Internet.
A FISA issued search warrant will also contain a “gag order” prohibiting the person or the institution served with the warrant from disclosing that the materials pursuant to the warrant were produced or even that the warrant was served. Violation of this law carries a federal criminal penalty. This does not, however, change Library Services’ right to legal counsel about the search.
The USA PATRIOT Act allows for voluntary disclosure of electronic communications or records and amends the criminal code pertinent to voluntary disclosure of information by providers of electronic communication service.
It is the policy of Library Services to protect the confidentiality of library customers to the extent permitted under state and federal laws. Section 257.2b1, Florida Statutes, designates as confidential the registration and circulation records of public libraries in the State of Florida.
Florida Gulf Coast University Library Services University will comply with all lawfully issued court orders and subpoenas properly served upon them and furnish the documents and materials specifically listed in the court order or subpoena.
- It is further understood that compliance with validly issued court orders does not eliminate the right of the University to challenge their issuance in proper legal matter.
- Library Services will seek the advice of the General Counsel and Chief of University Police on all requests for searches of library records, on the scope and content of the applicable laws pertaining to that particular search, and on compliance with the search of library and patron records.
- A library employee or volunteer may disclose the contents of an electronic communication and/or information about a customer to law enforcement officials if s/he reasonably believes that an emergency involving immediate danger of death or serious physical injury or substantial damage to property requires disclosure without delay.
- Library records, which may be the focus of law enforcement requests, include electronic, print, and other forms of patron information. FGCU Library Services, in concert with the Florida Center for Library Automation, needs to retain specific information for the regular operation of library business. Archives of information that reveal identities of individuals are kept only when clearly necessary.
- Each department in Library Services is responsible for adherence to these policies and procedures. All library personnel, including student assistants and volunteers, are to be fully informed on this policy and procedure and on their own role if such situations arise. This policy is posted on the library website and in the library building.
- The Library Services Director or the Director’s designee will be the person responsible for handling law enforcement requests.
- The Library will use the Office of the General Counsel and Chief of University Police to advise the Director or designee on all law enforcement requests. The General Counsel will review all warrants for sufficiency and correctness, and take necessary legal action in the case of improprieties in the issuance of the warrant or in the search.
(a) When presented with a court order, the Director or designee will refer the order to the General Counsel for review.
(b) When presented with a subpoena, Counsel will examine it for any legal defect. If a defect exists, Counsel will advise as to the best method of responding to the subpoena.
- All Library faculty, staff, and volunteers will understand that they have no authority to answer questions of agents or officers nor to order compliance with any court order or subpoena. They will also understand that it is lawful to refer the agent or officer to the Director or designee and they do not have to respond immediately to any request.
(a) Staff should ask for identification right away if approached by an agent of officer and immediately refer them to the Director or designee.
- If the agent or officer does not have a court order compelling the production of records, the Director or designee will explain the Library’s confidentiality policy as well as state law and inform them that the records are not available until a court order or subpoena in proper form is issued and presented to the library. Library employees cannot obstruct
justice and are required to act in accordance with this policy with the understanding that:
(a) without a court order, law enforcement officials do not have the authority to compel cooperation with an investigation or require answers to questions, other than the name and address of the person speaking to the officer, and
(b) a valid court order must be issued before a law enforcement agent or officer places software or hardware on Library Services servers or other information technology.
- After the visit, adhere to any restrictions in the warrant about sharing the information with others. FISA issued warrants specifically charge that any person or institution served with a warrant will not disclose that a warrant was served or that documents were produced pursuant to the warrant
- The University Spokesperson will handle all media contacts. Within Library Services, only the Library Services Director will be prepared to discuss the matter with the media.
- The Director or designee will retain a log of all requests for records
- A library employee or volunteer who reasonably believes that an emergency involves immediate danger, death, serious physical injury, or substantial damage to property, is required to disclose, without delay, the contents of an electronic communication and/or information about a customer to law enforcement officials.
- Archives of information that reveal identities of individuals will be disposed of in compliance with University Records Retention policies.
- All staff will be advised of these policies and procedures.