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July 12, 2011

For More Information, Contact:
Melissa Figueroa (916) 651-4011 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


SACRAMENTO –Senate Bill 445 by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) to provide 21st century privacy protections for California library patrons, has been signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. California’s library privacy laws were created before the use of the Internet. As a result, an individual’s interaction with the library outside of the typical library book circulation is not protected under current law. 

Existing law provides limited privacy protection for “registration and circulation” records, but is largely silent on privacy protection for the many online interactions a patron has at or through their public libraries, including items such as:

• Email or text based communications with a librarian or library staff;
• Online courses;
• Computer research; and,
• Online records of items checked out.

Simitian said he was “gratified” by the Governor’s signature, and “pleased that the Governor has taken this early opportunity to stake out a pro-privacy position.”

“With every passing day, in so many ways, our personal privacy is being steadily eroded.  This new law ensures that when we step into the library, virtually or otherwise, our privacy remains protected,” said Simitian. “The more than a million Californians who use our public libraries every day deserve to have their personal information protected,” said Simitian. “People use libraries to research sensitive and personal topics; their privacy shouldn’t be compromised.”

The change in law was suggested by one of Simitian’s constituents through Simitian’s annual “There Oughta Be A Law” contest. Cupertino resident and library law consultant Mary Minow submitted her winning entry after attending one of Senator Simitian’s Town Hall meetings. 

“This bill is a much needed update for library users in California,” said Minow.  “The existing law only protected our registration and circulation records. In today’s world, we email, text, and chat with librarians online. Library users don’t expect that to be part of the public record.  I’m delighted that a step for privacy has been made for library patrons in the digital world.”

Senate Bill 445 makes a small but necessary change in state law to ensure that all patron use records are protected equally, and can be disclosed only to the appropriate parties.  The California Library Association and its members expressed support of the bill, indicating that change was needed.

“It has become difficult to fit today’s online communications methods used by libraries and their patrons into the existing law. The new language will ensure library users that records of their communications and transactions with their library will remain private and confidential,” said San Jose Public Library Director, Jane Light.

“California has been on the leading edge of privacy legislation for decades. This bill brings an important law into the 21st century. Libraries offer electronic connections to a multitude of invaluable online resources. People who use libraries to access such online resources deserve the same confidentiality they obtain when using the more traditional library resources,” said Beth Givens Director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a non-profit agency dedicated to consumer advocacy.

The new law goes into effect January 1, 2012. For more information on Senator Simitian’s “There Oughta Be A Law” contest or Senate Bill 445 visit