California Updates Library Privacy Laws to Include Electronic Records

California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Tuesday a measure that will modernize the state’s library privacy laws. The bill, SB445 sponsored by Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), updates circulation of records laws in order to keep confidential electronic as well as written patron use information and borrowing records. The information cannot be disclosed by a public library or a third party that stores information for the library, according to a summary by the California Library Association (CLA). The new law would protect online interactions that a patron has with the library, such as email communications with a librarian, online courses, computer research, and online records of checked out items. “With every passing day, in so many ways, our personal privacy is being steadily eroded.  This new law ensures that when we step into the library, virtually or otherwise, our privacy remains protected,” Simitian said in a press release. “The more than a million Californians who use our public libraries every day deserve to have their personal information protected,” he said. “People use libraries to research sensitive and personal topics; their privacy shouldn’t be compromised.” CLA backed the measure, and Jane Light, the director of the San Jose Public Library, helped CLA to shepherd the bill through the legislature. “It has become difficult to fit today’s online communications methods used by libraries and their patrons into the existing law. The new language will ensure library users that records of their communications and transactions with their library will remain private and confidential,” Light said according to the press release from Simitian’s office.

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