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Library Technology Subcommittee of the CUNY Committee on Academic Technology

A standing committee reporting to the CUNY Committee on Academic Technology about the interplay of academic technology and libraries.


NYS Law on Confidentiality of Library Records

  • In discussing the “Internet Access Guidelines for CUNY Libraries” at our meeting this afternoon, I brought up the New York State Law on Confidentiality of Library Records and suggested that this law, which states that library records containing personally identifying details “shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed” except by court order was relevant to the discussion of the necessity of “providing infrastructure expressly for unrestricted access to the Internet.” Stephen Francoeur asked me to send him the link to the law, but I thought it might be of interest to all in this group.

    The citation is to NY CLS CPLR ยง 4509, and the full text of the law with commentary can most easily be found by searching Lexis-Nexis for New York statutes and the phrase “confidentiality of library records” (the permalink would embed the John Jay ezproxy). I like going through Lexis-Nexis, rather than just finding the text of the law on the web, since the Notes make very clear that the intent of the 1988 revision of the law was to protect not just circulation records, but all library records (including those involving computers) that might give clues to what an individual was reading. The legislature was concerned about the right to privacy, without which “there would be a chilling effect on the citizen’s right to seek information freely, contrary to the objectives of the First Amendment.” It’s a very enlightening read.

    Bonnie Nelson
    John Jay

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