Note: Specific questions about your library's legal responsibilities should be directed to the appropriate city/village/county attorney that handles such matters for your library.
In the course of your various library programs, you may encounter patrons who do not want themselves or their children photographed by local news media outlets (newspapers or television stations) or by library staff. There are many options libraries can employ to manage the issue of photo permissions, but ignoring it is not one that should be used.
The best option is to have a proactive process in place. You may choose to have posters in strategic locations, you may obtain permission on a case-by-case basis as photos are taken, or you may make it part of your program registration process. You can also opt to inform people that photos will be taken as a regular course of conducting programs and workshops, and they should fill out a form (which you provide with all registration materials) if they don't want such photos taken.
No matter how you choose to deal with getting permission to use photos, you’ll want to read the following.
- An Information Today article by Bryan Carson, the coordinator of Reference & Instructional Services at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. He holds a J.D. from the University of Toledo and an M.I.L.S. from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He writes the Legally Speaking column in Against the Grain and is the author of The Law of Libraries and Archives (Scarecrow Press, 2007).
- A Photo Attorney Blog post titled "Photography Not Allowed – 33 (Photographs of a local library)" by Carolyn E. Wright, an attorney whose practice is aimed squarely at the needs of photographers.
The first article addresses the issue of how the photos will be used, and provides insight to help you determine if the photo will only publicize an event, or whether it is promoting the library. The blog post addresses the issue of photographing the library, or taking photographs in the library, and who has what right to allow or preclude such activity.
SCLS recently offered a Brain Snack on this topic titled "Those Pesky Picture Permissions: Why They're Worth the Effort," which was recorded for viewing at your convenience. You also can download the PowerPoint slides from the "Past Programs Blog" page. We apologize for some technical problems with the webinar software that caused a slight delay at the beginning of the program.
Below are links to two documents that provice sample language that may be helpful as you develop a process for managing these issues in your library:
- one provides language that can be used to inform patrons of the likelihood that they or their children will be photographed as participants in a particular library program; and
- another is a sample form libraries can use to obtain photo permission from patrons.
Both documents are in Microsoft Word format so you are able to modify the text as your needs dictate. To download the documents described on this page, click on the appropriate link below.