Confidentiality as a guiding principle
University of Texas Libraries policy is that its circulation records and other records linking a library user with specific materials or services are confidential in nature. According to the Texas Public Information Act (as amended 1999) and in accord with established principles guiding the provision of library services, staff members may not release the names of borrowers who are using or who have used library materials or services. Exceptions are made only upon court order, subpoena, or warrant, or when deemed necessary by University officials for internal investigations.
The Vice President and Chief Financial Officer is the University's liaison with judicial and law enforcement authorities in matters regarding official records of the University. A University of Texas Libraries staff member may not release information except to the office of the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer or to a University of Texas Libraries administrator to be passed on to that office, except in the case of a warrant which is immediately executable. The University of Texas System Business Procedures Memorandum 32-09-99 , Texas Public Information Act , establishes each component institution's Chief Financial Officer as the custodian of records for that institution.
The USA PATRIOT Act
The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT Act) became law on October 26, 2001. Under provisions of the act, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other law enforcement officials may seek court orders for library records for investigations relevant to national security or terrorism. Libraries or library staff served with these search warrants may not disclose, under penalty of law, the existence of the warrants or the fact that records were produced as a result of the warrants. Borrowers cannot be told their records were given to law enforcement agencies or that they were the subjects of FBI investigations.
Many provisions of the PATRIOT Act, including the section that relates to libraries, expire automatically on December 31, 2005, unless renewed by Congress.
Minimum records kept
The University of Texas Libraries keeps the minimum number of records necessary to maintain operations. For example, when a user logs off a library computer, the library does not retain information that connects the user to activities performed during the session. When a borrower returns materials to the library, if no fines or fees are assessed, information about the materials checked out is deleted from the library's online records twice monthly.
For more information
More information on the USA PATRIOT Act is available from the American Library Association.
Developed in consultation with Student Government.