Privacy, Security and Ethical Issues Related to Library Records and the Use of Library Materials

I.   Use of Library Materials

Middlebury Library supports and adheres to the ALA Code of Ethics and the Society of American Archivists Core Values Statement and Code of Ethics to protect the rights of researchers.  In particular, the Library:

  • Provides the highest levels of service to all library patrons
  • Resists all efforts to censor library materials (while respecting prescribed restrictions placed on archival materials in agreement with the generating offices of Middlebury College)
  • Protects each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality
  • Distinguishes between the personal convictions and professional duties of our staff
  • Minimize restrictions and maximize ease of access as much as possible for all library materials

Please see the above codes of ethics for more details.

II.  Privacy of Library Records

Middlebury College ID holders may access their library accounts via a protected account on the library's Web page.

The Middlebury College Libraries respect the rights and privacy of our patrons and their records in accordance with institutional and professional policies and state law. The Library understands "patron records" to include (but are not limited to):

  • all records containing identifying information about patrons
  • borrowing histories
  • database searches
  • interlibrary loan transactions
  • reference queries
  • records pertaining to the use of library materials
  • contextual information contained in transcripts of reference interactions (including, but not limited to, email, IM/Chat, or text messages).

These records may only be released with the express written permission of the borrower involved, or in response to a subpoena, judicial order, or warrant.  Middlebury College libraries are required to comply with the USA Patriot Act laws, as they have been extended by the Freedom Act of 2015.  These federal laws override Vermont library record confidentiality laws (explained below).  Libraries that are served with warrants for records under these laws must produce them and are prohibited from informing a patron that their records were disclosed to the government or that they are the subject of an investigation. 

Under Vermont law, Sec. 1. 22 V.S.A. chapter 4:

§ 172. LIBRARY RECORD CONFIDENTIALITY; EXEMPTIONS

(a) A library’s patron registration records and patron transaction records shall remain confidential.

(b) Unless authorized by other provisions of law, the library’s officers, employees, and volunteers shall not disclose the records except:

(1) with the written permission of the library patron to whom the records pertain;
(2) to officers, employees, volunteers, and agents of the library to the extent necessary for library administration purposes;
(3) in response to an authorized judicial order or warrant directing disclosure;
(4) to custodial parents or guardians of patrons under age 16;
(5) to the custodial parents or guardians of a student, in accordance with the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, by the library at the school the student attends.

(c) Statistical records pertaining to the patronage, circulation activities, and use of any service or consultation the library provides, provided that they do not contain the names of patrons or any other personally identifying information, shall be exempt from the provisions of this chapter.

§ 173. RIGHT OF PATRON ACTION

Any person whose confidential patron registration records or patron transaction records have been disclosed, except as provided in this chapter, is authorized to bring a civil action against the library that disclosed the records.

III.  Judicial Orders or Warrants

In the event that the Library receives a valid and enforceable judicial order or warrant for library records, the library will:

  • Request identification from the officer or person serving the judicial order or warrant
  • Inform the Dean of Libraries about the judicial order or warrant for further action

IV.  Middlebury College’s “Ask a Librarian” Privacy Policy

Sign-In Information

Our “Ask a Librarian” services (chat, email, text) are open to everyone, and we do not require a Middlebury account to ask a question. A librarian may, however, ask for a telephone number or e-mail address in order to call or e-mail you to assist with more complex questions.  A librarian may also ask whether or not you are affiliated with Middlebury College in order to identify the most appropriate resources responding to your questions, since many of our databases are licensed for use only by the Middlebury College community.

Answering Your Questions

We work in a collaborative fashion with our Library colleagues, and in some cases your question may be forwarded to another staff member to help us provide you with the best answer. Your contact information will be sent along with your question so that we can respond in a timely manner.

Stored Information

Chat transcripts are stored securely on our chat provider's servers and may also be downloaded to secure storage on the library's servers. We access these transcripts to evaluate the quality of our service and for statistical purposes. We do not provide transcripts to any other individuals or institutions. That same is true for email messages and any text messages sent to “Ask a Librarian.”

Please send comments or questions to Terry Simpkins (tsimpkin@middlebury.edu)

rev. 7/30/15