Legal Resources

Legal Issues in Georgia Public Libraries

Legal issues arise in all aspects of daily life, and public libraries are no exception. The purpose of this document is to address law-related questions raised by public librarians in Georgia. The explanations and proposed solutions do not take the place of professional legal counsel. Rather, this work is a meant to raise awareness of the current state of the law as it applies to actual situations faced by librarians. Chapters include Access Issues, Problem Behavior by Patrons, Debt Collection, Employment Issues, General Liability, and Board of Trustees and Friends of the Library. (Download Document Now)

Legal Presentation by Marti Minor, 2013

The following presentations and materials were presented by Marti Minor at the Public Library Directors Meetings in September and December of 2013. These materials are provided as general information only. No legal advice is being given by the Georgia Public Library Service, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, or any other person. You should consult with your attorney on all legal matters.

Legal Questions from Georgia Librarians: Ten Case Studies

Legal Presentation by Marti Minor, 2010

The following presentation and materials were presented by Marti Minor at the Public Library Directors Meeting & PINES Annual Meeting, May 10-14, 2010 in Warner Robins, GA. These materials are provided as general information only. No legal advice is being given by the Georgia Public Library Service, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, or any other person. You should consult with your attorney on all legal matters.

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Confidentiality of Patron Information

Confidentiality of patron information: Patron data such as email address, phone number or mailing address cannot be used for purposes other than PINES transactions initiated by library patrons.  As per Board of Regents legal counsel has indicated that in their opinion that state and federal privacy laws prevent use of PINES patron records for any business other than library transactions initiated by the patron.  Allowable use of data may include overdue notices, preminders, holds notices.  Patron information may not be used for county mailings, Friends of Libraries solicitations, and unsolicited e-mail communications from the library staff. 

See also: http://pines.georgialibraries.org/ec-meeting-2009-may

Regarding Volunteers:

The PINES Code of Ethics agreement signed by all library personnel upholds Georgia confidentiality law (O. C. G. A. 24.9.46) regarding the handling of patron information. When asked if a library may use volunteers to perform basic library services such as checking in books, the legal advice came back against using volunteers to perform activities that may break confidentiality laws. Even if volunteers signed the PINES Code of Ethics agreement, if the agreement was violated the library has no way to pursue action against a volunteer for infractions.

 

Juvenile / Family Debts

Q. I need a little help with this situation. Do you have a feel for what other libraries do about these issues? I don’t know if you could hold someone who has not signed the card, responsible for debts. I do know the parent who signed for the card would be held responsible. My initial response was bar the whole family, but would that be legal? A. Each library must develop and publish policies regarding borrowing privileges for families. And I don't see a straight forward legal issue with a policy that results in all family members being barred if one of the cards is delinquent. The primary reason that I don't think it is "illegal" to have such policy is that borrowing library materials is a privilege, not a right. (The policy should be very precise in defining "family", i.e., same residential address, actually related.) The troubling aspect of such a policy is the notion that an individual may be punished for the deeds of other members of his or her family, over which he or she has no control. But to be "illegal" I think the library would have to take the additional step of trying to enforce collection efforts against the non-delinquent family member. In the example given below where the family has racked up $250+ charges on one set of cards and relies on the other set, one approach may be initiation of criminal proceedings under O.C.G.A. § 20-5-53 for any unreturned library materials. This action would be against the adult who signed for the delinquent card. The most important issues I see from a legal standpoint are (1) notice to cardholders of precisely what the policy is regarding family accounts, (if the policy is to be changed, advance notice of the upcoming changes is a must); and (2) consistent enforcement the applicable policy. What the library would not want to do is suddenly refuse borrowing privileges to the entire family without notifying them of the policy changes or fail to enforce its policy even-handedly to all families. Answers provided by Marti Minor. These materials are provided as general information only. No legal advice is being given by the Georgia Public Library Service, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, or any other person. You should consult with your attorney on all legal matters.