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Illinois Library Records Confidentiality Act: Wikis


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In January 1984, the Illinois Library Records Confidentiality Act was passed to ensure the privacy of a library patron’s registration and circulation records. This act protects sensitive patron information from anyone wishing to obtain it, including a law enforcement or government official, unless a court order is issued and presented.[1]


Major sections of the Act

The three major sections of the Act are presented below:

  • Sec. 1(a) The registration and circulation records of a library are confidential information. Except pursuant to a court order, no person shall publish or make any information contained in such records available to the public.
  • (b) This section does not prevent a library from publishing or making available to the public reasonable statistical reports regarding library registration and book circulation where those reports are presented so that no individual is identified therein.
  • (c) For the purpose of this section, (i) “library” means any public library or library of an educational, historical, or eleemosynary institution, organization or society; (ii) “registration records” includes any information a library requires a person to provide in order for that person to become eligible to borrow books and other materials and (iii)”circulation records” includes all information identifying the individual borrowing particular books or materials.[2]

Rationale for the Act

The rationale behind this piece of legislation begins with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, in so far as the privacy of library records is thought to be an appendage to freedom of speech. There have been numerous attempts through the years by individuals and institutions to gain the sensitive information on a patron’s library card, such as law enforcement looking for the identity of someone conducting research on a particular topic, or a professor wanting to review the circulation records of a student accused of plagiarism.[1] Furthermore, it is thought that if patrons cannot be assured that their information is confidential, it produces a “chilling effect” on a patron’s desire for information. [3]

Similar state laws

It is worth noting that while forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have confidentiality laws relating to libraries, no two are exactly alike.[4][5][6] And for each state, including Illinois, many revisions and additions to this Act have been debated. For example, Illinois has no provision in its Library Records Confidentiality Act that would allow a parent to review the circulation records of their child. However, many state laws do. This is one topic that will continue to be debated at the state level.

Future considerations

It has also been suggested that section (c)(iii) of the Act needs to be updated to reflect the modern library. The phrase “particular books or materials” may now need to be expanded to reflect the usage of websites, databases, program attendance, etc. [1]


  1. ^ a b c A Review of the Illinois Library Records Confidentiality Act. Michael P. Ragen. Illinois Libraries (Online) 84 no3 1-58 Summer 2002.
  2. ^ Illinois Library Laws and Rules. Citation:75 ILCS 70/1, pg.56-57. 2006.
  3. ^ Lord, Catherine: Defending Access with Confidence: A Practical Workshop on Intellectual Freedom,American Library Association, 2005 ISBN 0-8389-8324-3
  4. ^ State Laws on the Confidentiality of Library Records
  5. ^ (More) State Laws on the Confidentiality of Library Records
  6. ^ (Still More) State Laws on the Confidentiality of Library Records

See also



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