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Frequently Asked Questions – Act 207, Parental Access to Library Records

(The answers to these questions are informal interpretations of Wisconsin Law – libraries should seek their municipal attorney’s opinion when applying the law to particular circumstances.)

What is Act 207?
What has changed because of Act 207?
What guidance have libraries received from the Division for Libraries, Technology and Community Learning (DLTCL)?
Do I need a new policy?
What policies do I need to revise?
Can you recommend some sample language for a revised policy?
What is a custodial parent?
How do I know if an individual is a custodial parent?
Is there a form I can ask an individual to complete, certifying that s/he is the custodial parent?
How should library staff handle requests from parents to see their children's library records?


What is Act 207?
A bill regarding parental access to library records (AB 169) passed the legislature and was signed by the governor. The new law was officially published as Wisconsin 2003 Act 207 on April 22, 2004. (See the text of Act 207 <http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2003/data/acts/03Act207.pdf>) Act 207 became law effective April 23, 2004.

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What has changed because of Act 207?
Act 207 amends Wisconsin Statutes Section 43.30 (which is included in Chapter 43. (PDF))

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What guidance have libraries received from the Division for Libraries, Technology and Community Learning (DLTCL)?
DLTCL's has created a Frequently Asked Questions About Compliance With the New Parental Access to Library Records Law <http://www.dpi.state.wi.us/dpi/dltcl/pld/ab169faqs.html >

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Do I need a new policy?
Rather than a new, separate policy on parental access to library records, your library should already have in place a policy on Confidentiality of Library Records, as part of your Circulation Policy. Your Confidentiality Policy may need to be revised to comply with Act 207.

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What policies do I need to revise?
Your library should already have in place a policy on Confidentiality of Library Records, as part of your Circulation Policy. Depending how this existing policy is worded, it may need to be revised to comply with Act 207. As with all library policies, this policy, and any revisions of it, must be approved by your Library Board.

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Can you recommend some sample language for a revised policy?
Below are three examples of a Confidentiality of Library Records policy, with some sample wording.

I. Example of existing policy (before Act 207).
II. Example of the same policy, revised to incorporate changes enacted by Act 207.
III. Example of a policy with more generic wording, that would be accurate both before and after Act 207 was enacted.

I. Example of existing policy (before Act 207)

Confidentiality of Library Records

All Anytown Public Library circulation and other records which indicate the identity of library users, especially as they connect library users with material or services used, are confidential. This confidentiality extends to information sought or received, including library materials consulted or borrowed, database search records, reference interviews, circulation records, registration records and all other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities or services.

Such information may not be disclosed, except to:

1. Persons acting within the scope of their duties in the administration of the library or library system.
2. A law enforcement officer carrying out a court order signed by a judge. Library staff will seek legal counsel from the City Attorney’s Office in the event of such request for release of library records, and will respond to the request according to the advice of counsel.
3. Persons authorized by the individual to inspect the individual’s record.

II. Example of the same policy, revised to incorporate changes enacted by Act 207

Confidentiality of Library Records

All Anytown Public Library circulation and other records which indicate the identity of library users, especially as they connect library users with material or services used, are confidential. This confidentiality extends to information sought or received, including library materials consulted or borrowed, database search records, reference interviews, circulation records, registration records and all other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities or services.

Such information may not be disclosed, except to:

1. Persons acting within the scope of their duties in the administration of the library or library system.
2. A law enforcement officer carrying out a court order signed by a judge. Library staff will seek legal counsel from the City Attorney’s Office in the event of such request for release of library records, and will respond to the request according to the advice of counsel.
3. Persons authorized by the individual to inspect the individual’s record.
4. A custodial parent or guardian of a child under age 16 who requests library records relating to that child's use of the library's documents or other materials, resources, or services.

III. Example of a policy with more generic wording, that would be accurate both before and after Act 207 was enacted.

Confidentiality of Library Records

All Anytown Public Library circulation and other records which indicate the identity of library users, especially as they connect library users with material or services used, are confidential. This confidentiality extends to information sought or received, including library materials consulted or borrowed, database search records, reference interviews, circulation records, registration records and all other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities or services.

Such information may not be disclosed, except as allowed by law.

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What is a custodial parent?
In Act 207, “Custodial Parent” is defined as any parent other than a parent who has been denied periods of physical placement with a child under Wisconsin Statutes Section 767.24(4). In situations involving separation or divorce, the courts will generally order periods of physical placement to both parents. However, in some cases the courts will issue an order denying periods of physical placement to one or both parents.

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How do I know if an individual is a custodial parent?
A custodial parent, as determined by the Reedsburg City Attorney, is defined as:

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Is there a form I can ask an individual to complete, certifying that s/he is the custodial parent?
Below are links to two samples (in PDF format) of an affidavit a library might use for this purpose. Both are adapted from a draft created by the Kenosha Public Library, with some additional suggestions from SCLS public libraries.

Sample 1 (PDF) – Custodial Parent/Guardian Certification for Access to Children's Records
Sample 2 (PDF) – Custodial Parent/Guardian Certification for Access to Children's Records

We prefer the first sample for two reasons:

  1. The list of possible requested records in Sample 2 includes only circulation records, whereas the law requires access to “records relating to the use of the library's documents or other materials, resources, or services.”
  2. The same list in Sample 2 also alerts the parent to all sorts of records, when they may only be asking about one.

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How should library staff handle requests from parents to see their children's library records?
Libraries should have in place, and follow, procedures for handling such requests. Again, these should not be separate procedures, but incorporated into your Circulation or Confidentiality procedures. Below is an example of a procedure for handling such requests:

Procedures for handling requests from custodial parents or guardians requesting library records of their children under age 16:

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Many thanks to the libraries who submitted questions and provided samples of policies, procedures and forms – parts of this document are directly borrowed or adapted from the materials provided by member libraries and Mike Cross's FAQ document posted on the DLTCL web page.

 

For more information about Act 207, contact Martha Van Pelt.