Congress passed the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act) on October 25, 2001 in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. This law greatly expanded federal law surveillance and investigative powers. Of concern to public libraries are library records, including patron files and electronic communications.
The Mississippi Code addresses the confidentiality of library user records in §39-3-365. MLC contacted the Office of the Attorney General for clarification and the following statement is excerpted from the original:
As your paperwork clearly reflects, there is no conflict between Section 39-3-365, and the USA Patriot Act. Our state provision has in essence been expanded to require the release of the confidential records at issue when the library has been served with a search warrant. The bottom line, all search warrants and court orders must be honored unless withdrawn by the court.
The wisest course of action is for library systems to be prepared to handle such an occurrence. Proper procedures should be installed to handle this possibility. These procedures should cover chain of command, notifications, etc. Library systems must comply with legally issued subpoenas or warrants. Library personnel should know the difference between the following two legal documents and act accordingly.
Warrant – a document directing or authorizing someone to do an act, especially an order for arrest, search or seizure. A warrant is immediately executed.
Subpoena – to order the production of documents or other things.
The Office of Government Relations, part of the American Library Association’s Washington Office, is tasked with “a broad range of issues including, but not limited to: appropriations, copyright, library programs, government information, privacy, and telecommunications.” This oversight includes monitoring the USA PATRIOT Act on behalf of libraries across the country and making recommendations to protect privacy and confidentiality of library and patron records regardless of format. Please see the 2016 Privacy/Surveillance/Cybersecurity Fact Sheet for more information.
This important function belongs to the administrative board of trustees. The Mississippi Code §39-3-17 (1) (d) states that the trustees of the administrative board shall:
Employ a library system director, prescribe his/her duties, fix his/her compensation, and remove him/her for cause.
Trustees are encouraged to be thoughtful and hire the best candidate for their library system. There is much diversity among library directors. The make-up of the library system itself and staff will dictate the type of individual sought. Once again, the Mississippi Code provides essential information; § 39-3-17 (2) states:
There shall be one (1) library director for each library system. Said library system director shall have such educational qualifications as are prescribed by the Mississippi Library Commission. The library system director shall administer and establish procedures according to policies established by the administrative board of trustees. His or her duties shall include: (a) employment of staff with the approval of the board of trustees; (b) prescription of staff duties; (c) removal of staff for cause; (d) preparation of the budget; (e) financial and statistical management; (f) reporting to board of trustees; and (g) other acts necessary for the orderly and efficient administration of the library system.
Qualifications for Directorship:
Trustees are encouraged to hire a director with the professional degree (MLS/MLIS) to avoid the necessity to request an educational waiver from the Board of Commissioners of the Mississippi Library Commission. The MLS/MLIS degree should be conferred by an American Library Association accredited institution. The American Library Association maintains a list of accredited programs of study (http://www.ala.org/accreditedprograms/directory/search): library directors must request official transcripts be sent directly from the registrar of their university to the Mississippi Library Commission.
Job Announcements and Recruitment:
The Library Commission, particularly the library consultants, will assist trustees in this process. Commission staff will review job announcements and offer suggestions if requested. Library consultants can help find examples of job announcements to use as a starting point. Consultants will identify placement options for the announcement including MLC’s website, library schools, and library publications. There are no cost/low cost options available for announcement placement.
Expensive options can be used as needed to broaden the search if the response is insufficient. Some library systems may even hire outside consultants to lead the search for them. This is permissible, but not required. Most library systems have had successful searches without hiring an outside firm.
Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires two things: 1) an Internet Safety Policy; and 2) the use of filtering software on Internet access.
I. Internet Safety Policy
You must have an Internet safety policy that covers everything, including new rules passed over the years. You can use the template on our website at http://mlc.lib.ms.us/technology-services/e-rate/ (under Links for Additional Information on E-Rate/Universal Services).
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If you have not already adopted an Internet safety policy, you must hold a public hearing during your next board meeting to discuss said policy. There is not a requirement that members of the public have to actually show up or even speak. Properly advertise when your open meeting will be, and keep a copy of your proof of notice (photocopy of newspaper/printout of newspaper’s website). If you do not have records of having held such a meeting in the past, you must hold a meeting following the guidelines set forth below.
The notice for this meeting goes beyond the normal public notice you have to do for your usual board meetings. If you’re making your public hearing a part of your regularly scheduled board meeting, just an additional line is sufficient, like this:
“The regular meeting of the ______ Library Board of Trustees is scheduled for Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 11:00 a.m., in the 1st floor main meeting room. The meeting will include a public hearing to discuss proposed technology protection measures and the internet safety policy.”
Be sure to actually discuss the Internet safety policy during your advertised board meeting and make sure it is recorded in the minutes appropriately. The actual formal discussion of the Internet Safety Policy and its adoption should appear on the board’s agenda. Ensure that a formal motion and vote of acceptance are recorded accurately in your minutes. Do not forget to approve these minutes at the subsequent board meeting.
Finally, save all of your documentation which includes:
- your policy
- the proof of notice
- your board minutes discussing and approving the policy
Please share this documentation with Vivian Sanderford by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
II. Filtering Software
The second part of CIPA requires “specific technology that blocks or filters Internet access” to visual depictions of:
- Child pornography
- Materials harmful to minors (does not include violence or hate speech)
Filtering must be applied to all Internet accessible computers in the library. If your library receives Internet access from AT&T and the statewide contract, then this service is already provided to your library.