The Gap between Theory and Practice: A Study of the Prevalence and Strength of Patron Confidentiality Policies in Public and Academic Libraries


Vermont library directors estimated they received at least 1,228 requests for patron information in the last year. In spite of these requests and heightened awareness about threats to confidentiality posed by the USA PATRIOT Act, fewer than half of the state’s public and academic libraries have written patron confidentiality policies. The policies that do exist were recently updated and most prohibit release of information without a binding legal document. However, only half require an attorney’s review of such documents. Libraries with larger numbers of personnel and with directors holding MLS degrees are more likely to have policies. The absence of policies does not appear to indicate a lack of belief in the importance of confidentiality; a vast majority of library directors support strengthening the state law.


Final version published as: Magi, T. (2007). "The gap between theory and practice: A study of the prevalence and strength of patron confidentiality policies in public and academic libraries." Library & Information Science Research, 29(4), 455-470. d.o.i.


privacy, confidentiality, policy, USA PATRIOT Act, libraries

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