Maine Library and Patron Confidentiality Law

Privacy provisions in Maine law protect the confidentiality of patron records maintained by Maine public libraries, the Maine State Library, the Law and Legislative Reference Library, and libraries of the University of Maine System, Maine Community College System and Maine Maritime Academy.

The confidentiality law was amended by P.L. 2015, Ch 81 in 2015 and the new protections will become effective 90 days after adjournment of the 127th Legislature (TBA in Fall 2015).

Frequently asked questions about 2015 changes in Maine Library and Patron Confidentiality Law

What are the consequences for violating this updated statute?

  • "“The Library and Patron Confidentiality “ statute is a civil statute – not a criminal statute.

What are typical protections that specifically relate to the updated statute?  (i.e. what “can’t or shouldn’t” a library do without the patron’s consent or a court order?)

  • Should not allow a spouse, friend, or someone other than the patron to pick up an item on hold for the patron without the patron’s consent. (the prior statute actually covered this too).
  • Should not divulge a patron’s specific use of the library – i.e. can’t say, “so and so was using the computers… or was reading such an such book in the corner…etc.”
  • Divulge identifying information about the patron.  Can’t reveal address, email, phone, etc. without the patron’s consent or a court order.

May we leave messages for the patron on an answering machine/voice mail to let them know items are available to pick up, etc.?   

  • Yes, if the phone number is the one the patron gave you, you could leave that sort of message on it.  It is like mailing a letter to the address they gave you . . .

May you share that someone was actually in the library? Is sharing the fact that someone was actually in the library protected?  (i.e. a parent asks if “you’ve seen my child?” or anyone else for that matter, including law enforcement asking if “so and so was at the library).

  • Yes, this may be revealed as this is not protected. A person’s sight or appearance in a public space is not a “record.”  Please understand that this is different than divulging that “so and so was using the PCs.”

What types of things (not limited to) are covered under the administrative use.  Can we provide protected information that we do business with so that the library can operate effectively?

  • Yes you may – if the vendor needs patron identifying information in order to carry out a service that is available or applicable to all patrons then yes – you may divulge the information.
  • This applies to many different kinds of vendor relationships including but not limited to: Collectors who collect fines and lost materials, integrated library system (ILS) vendors like Sierra (Maine InfoNet), Evergreen, Balsam, etc., Newsletter vendors (like Goodreads), database vendors like Mango, Chilton Auto Repair, EBSCO, etc.

Can we print the names of donors on a “donor board” or in a newsletter/annual report, etc?

  • Yes you may.  Donors, while they may or may not be library users, are providing a donation and this is not part of their “library record” as defined by the statute.
  • NOTE: This does not mean you do not want a donor policy that makes it clear that a donor’s name might be used publicly – some donors may not appreciate this.