May 20, 2022

California: "Library Privacy Protected with New Legislation"

From a San Mateo Daily Journal:

A new state law that takes effect Jan. 1 will add an extra layer of privacy for library users in the digital age.

California’s library privacy laws were created before the advent of the Internet and, as a result, an individual’s interaction with the library outside of circulation was not protected under state law until Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 445 earlier this month.

The bill was authored by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, but inspired by founder Mary Minow, who also manages the Stanford Copyright and Fair Use website.

Minow proposed the legislation as part of Simitian’s “There Oughta Be A Law” contest.


Until the bill takes effect, state law provides for limited privacy protection for “registration and circulation” records but is largely silent on privacy protection for the many online interactions a user has through public libraries, including items such a emails or text messages, online courses, computer research and online records of items checked out.

Before the Internet, library requests were typically all oral or hand-written, Minow said. Nowadays, however, librarians more frequently interact with their patrons electronically.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.