Communications - Confidential Records Policy

Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records and Procedure for Law Enforcement Visits and Receipt of Court Orders

The University of Georgia Libraries policy on confidentiality directly reflects Georgia Code 24-9-46 that states: 

"(a) Circulation and similar records of a library which identify the user of library materials shall not be public records but shall be confidential and may not be disclosed except:

  1. To members of the library staff in the ordinary course of business; 
  2. Upon written consent of the user of the library materials or the user´suser's parents or guardian if the user is a minor or ward; or 
  3. Upon appropriate court order or subpoena. 
(b) Any disclosure authorized by subsection (a) of this Code section or any unauthorized disclosure of materials made confidential by that subsection (a) shall not in any way destroy the confidential nature of that material, except for the purpose for which an authorized disclosure is made. A person disclosing material as authorized by subsection (a) of this Code section shall not be liable therefore." 

Although confidential library records have always been subject to disclosure according to lawful process, the USA Patriot Act expands the authority of local, state and federal law enforcement to gain access to educational and library records, including stored electronic data and communications. As such, this law overrides state library confidentiality laws protecting library records. This law also applies to university and other records in the custody of the Libraries archives and records program; thus these procedures also will apply. 

Definition of Terminology: 

Court Order: an order by a legally recognized court of law that requires a party to do or to abstain from doing a specific act. Both a search warrant and a subpoena are court orders. 

Search warrant: a written order issued by a judge that directs a law enforcement officer to search a specific area for a particular piece of evidence. 

Subpoena: a document issued by the court to compel a witness to appear and give testimony or to procure documentary evidence in a proceeding. 

Procedures 

The UGA Office of Legal Affairs (542-0006, fax: 542-3248) is responsible for reviewing and responding to all court orders, search warrants, subpoenas or other requests for information. All requests of this nature should be forwarded to this office as quickly as possible. 

When presented with any court order, an employee should: 

  • Obtain proper identification of the agent or officer presenting the document; make a copy 
  • Obtain a copy of the court order 
  • Following departmental guidelines, give the copy of the agent identification and court order notification to the supervisor and/or department head (as appropriate). The supervisor /department head is responsible for notifying the University Librarian and Associate Provost and for ensuring that the copy of the agent identification and court order is forwarded to the Office of Legal Affairs 
Note: The form of court order most likely to be served is a search warrant. A search warrant is executable immediately, unlike a subpoena. The agent or officer may begin a search of library records as soon as a library employee is served with the search warrant. The employee should ask if s/he can call the supervisor or department head for notification of the University's Office of Legal Affairs but legally, the search may begin immediately. The employee should cooperate with the search to ensure that only the records identified in the warrant are produced and that no other restricted records are viewed or scanned.  Reviewed by Legal Affairs: February 2004