Guideline UL-ADG04 Staff Guidelines on Protecting the Confidentiality and Privacy of Patron Library Records

Main Policy Content


  • Purpose
  • Introduction
  • Questions
  • Cross References


To provide Libraries’ employees with answers to questions of concern.


Library employees may not provide patron-specific information or information related to the business of the library in any form (written, oral, or electronic) to anyone other than the account holder concerned.  No employee should feel compelled to respond to an oral or undocumented request for information from a law enforcement officer or any other person.  Any request for patron information that library staff may receive from a law enforcement official must be referred directly to the Dean’s office immediately.  This applies to all requests for information regarding our library users as well as an individual’s library records retained in any/all library systems. (Library systems include, but are not limited to: ILLiad, EZBorrow, SirsiDynix Symphony, Aeon, Director’s Station, Desk Tracker, room booking and more. In addition, pen and paper registration systems such as wait lists and attendance are subject to the same restrictions.) This applies to all locations and all hours of service.  Many of our records are protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.  

In the event that a library employee is approached by a law enforcement officer with a search warrant, a subpoena, or a verbal request for information, that employee should immediately contact his or her supervisor who will take appropriate measures to ensure that the Libraries’ compliance with the law is upheld.  All requests for information concerning a judicial process must be referred immediately to the office of the Dean of the Libraries, 510 Paterno Library, University Park, (814) 865-0402. 


What should I do if I am asked for information?

If you are approached, avoid taking an adversarial stance.  Be polite, courteous, and friendly.  It is the Libraries’ intention to comply with the law while taking every available precaution to preserve patron confidentiality and privacy.

  • You may say, “I am not the person who can provide that information, but let me contact someone who can assist you.” 
  • Contact your supervisor immediately. 
  • The supervisor will politely ask to see a legal order, subpoena or warrant, and inform the law enforcement officer or agent that the Libraries’ Dean and Legal Counsel will be contacted immediately; thereby letting them know that there will not be a delay.
  • Contact Libraries’ Administration (and campus administration):
    • The Dean’s Office reception can be reached at 814-865-0402. The Dean’s office is open Monday through Friday, usually from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. After hours contact information.
    • If the officer or agent produces a warrant:
      1. Ask the officer or agent to wait while you contact the appropriate administrator. 
      2. If the officer or agent will not wait, step aside and allow the search to proceed and then contact the administration. 
      3. In the event of a warrant being presented for an immediate search and/or seizure of computer equipment and electronic files, contact the Dean’s Office as above and Libraries Strategic Technologies. The Head of Libraries Strategic Technologies can be reached at 814-863-0468.

Additional Information for Staff on Libraries Intranet (staff only)


UL-AD08 – Confidentiality and Privacy of Patron Library Records

Effective Date: October 3, 2003
Date Approved: October 3, 2003 (Dean's Library Council)

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • February 2022 - Revised
  • December 2017 – Revised
  • August 21, 2015 – Editorial clarifications and reflection of current practice 
  • August 2011 – Libraries' Administration Contact Information Updated
  • January 2010 – Digital Library Technologies Contact Information Updated
  • August 2007 – Revised; Addition of information about FERPA
  • December 19, 2006 – Digital Library Technologies Contact Information Updated
  • August 2007; October 24, 2005 – Libraries' Administration Contact Information Updated
  • October 3, 2003 – New guidelines

Last Review Date:  February 2022