Archive for May, 2009



Book Review: Privacy and Confidentiality Issues: A Guide for Libraries and Their Lawyers

Privacy and Confidentiality Issues: A Guide for Libraries and Their Lawyers.
98 pages, 2009, soft cover, American Library Association (ALA)

The privacy and confidentiality of library patrons concerned many public libraries after September 11, particularly because of the passage and enforcement of the Patriot Act. Theresa Chmara, a litigator who has represented the American Library Association, the Freedom to Read Foundation, and the American Bookseller’s Association, provides concise and useful guidelines for libraries about these and other related issues in Privacy and Confidentiality Issues: A Guide for Libraries and Their Lawyers. This work is highly recommend for public library directors but should be required professional reading for all library directors. Additionally, library schools, which have an obligation to educate future librarians about the First Amendment concept of privacy in the context of the library, should purchase this book. It also serves as a great edition to a law school’s First Amendment collection for the same reasons as well as to bolster an academic collection that may lack practice oriented sources in this area.

Chmara’s text is well organized utilizing a question and answer format. This format makes it an ideal reference source. The chapters are also structured logically around issues facing libraries: instances where privacy and confidentiality conflicts arise, the First Amendment, privacy and confidentiality in the context of the Internet, relevant state statutes dealing with privacy, minors rights to privacy under the First Amendment, federal statutes, and the development of library privacy policies. The beginning of the book offers an overview of basic First Amendment principles. This is a thorough discussion and includes the definition of a public forum and how public libraries fit into the same doctrine (as a designated public forum), the right to receive information, restrictions that libraries can lawfully impose, and the legal tests and standards applicable to libraries. Of potential usefulness, Chmara explains how a library’s legal counsel should research and prepare responses to the government intrusion on a library’s privacy rights.

This work also underscores concepts of criminal procedure laws and principles as they apply to libraries. Specifically, in the chapter devoted to state privacy and confidentiality statutes, Chmara examines the varied state protection of library records. To allow readers to further access the relevant information, Chmara provides a fifty-state survey of confidentiality and privacy laws as an appendix. Although she emphasizes that the statutes in the Appendix must be updated and further researched, the Appendix is an efficient resource and informative starting point.

As an academic law librarian and legal research teacher, I enjoyed reading this text. It served as an excellent review of First Amendment principles as they apply to libraries. It also gave me greater insight into the daily functions of public libraries. First, with the installation of the computers and the Internet service in public libraries, librarians dealt with an assortment of challenges from members of the public viewing sensitive material on the Internet to creating Internet usage policies and monitoring the same. Similarly, since September 11, public libraries have been under greater scrutiny by law enforcement officials at local, state, and federal levels. Privacy and Confidentiality Issues: A Guide for Libraries and Their Lawyers offers digestible and practical guidance for libraries facing these challenges as well as reminds a more general audience of the enduring First Amendment principles protecting our libraries.

Julie Graves Krishnaswami is the Faculty Services Librarian and a Legal Research Professor at City University of New York School of Law (CUNY).

Day in the Life Photo Contest Winners

AALL is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s A Day in the Life of the Law Library Community photo contest. Nearly 30 members froTatiana Vorobieva, research assistant to the FCIL Librarian at LSU, researches French customary law in the 1535 edition of the Grand Coutumier of the Duchy of Normandy.m 23 different law libraries across the country submitted 82 photos to the contest.

For the second year in a row, Vicenc Feliu, foreign, comparative, and international law librarian at Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center Library in Baton Rouge, took the best picture overall. This year he won for “Absorbing the Law” (right), which shows Tatiana Vorobieva, Feliu’s research assistant, researching French customary law in the 1535 edition of the Grand Coutumier of the Duchy of Normandy.

Congratulations to all the winners, and many thanks to each and every member who participated and shared their photos with AALL. In addition to viewing the winners, you may check out all the contest submissions online. Look for more information about the winning photos in the July issue of AALL Spectrum and at the 2009 AALL Annual Meeting and Conference in Washington, D.C., July 25-28.

Take the Lead in Law Librarianship

AALL is now accepting applications for the 2009 AALL Leadership Academy, to be held October 16-17 in the Chicago area.

Law librarians in the early stages of their careers can get ahead in the profession by learning their unique strengths and how they can bring value to their organizations through personal visibility.

Applications are due by June 30, and participants (fellows) will be selected and notified by mid-August. Fellows will participate in pre-engagement exercises, have an opportunity to obtain a mentor, and receive ongoing leadership development opportunities.

Apply today!


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