Attorney General’s opinion and other new statute guidelines.(revised)

What follows is the gist of the Attorney General’s opinion on the new confidentiality statute.

  1. Public libraries must keep records of patrons 16 or older confidential unless the patron waives that right.
  2. Public libraries have “limited discretion” expanding the scope of confidentiality of library records. The opinion says they must disclose the records of patrons under 16 if requested by parents.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, attorney and deputy director of ALAOIF, advises that all policies must be based on the local community. There is not going to be a one size fits all. But some important components follow :

  • In reference to determining custodial parent and age issue. It would be a good idea for all size communities to state in their policy that the library may require documentation, such as birth certificate. Language she suggested is “For your protection, the library may require proof of legal status as guardian and the minor’s date of birth.”
  • As a matter of “Fair Information” practices the library should post at the circulation desk: their privacy policy, the statute and a statement “As required by 22 VSA Section 172, ALL records of individuals age 16 or over are confidential unless an individual waives their right through written permission. Records of individuals under age 16 may be released to custodial parents or guardians upon [written] request.”
  • If a library uses a family card, she advised that continuation of that practice be determined locally. She suggested that a letter and a copy of the statute be sent to every family card holder.
  • The letter should state that a family card means that every individual listed has access to that record. And provide the option to request an individual card be specified but minors 16 and older will automatically get an individual card with the protections it afford (unless the individual waives the right in writing).
  • The decision about whether the library chooses to protect the privacy of patrons sitting in the library, but not actively using resources should be spelled in the policy based on the library’s mission. The courts have ruled that there is “no reasonable expectation of privacy when an individual enters a public building.” An updated example of a Privacy and Confidentiality policy is available on as well as a copy of the letter Sherburne Memorial Library is sending to their patrons. An example of a family card option can be found at .
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