Bill opens kids' library records to parents

Posted: Tuesday, February 24, 2004

State Sen. Lyda Green believes parents should know what their kids are checking out of the library. The Wasilla Republican has introduced a bill that would require public libraries to give parents access to their children's records on request.

Some professional librarians say kids seeking information in the library deserve to have their privacy protected.

Green sponsored the bill after hearing complaints from constituents.

"This issue has been immensely logistically problematic," Jacqueline Tupou, an aide to Green, told the Senate Health Education and Social Services Committee on Monday.

Tupou said one constituent complained that the library called to tell her that a book her 8-year-old child had put on hold was available. When the mother asked which book, library staff told her they could not release that information because of privacy laws.

Lynn Shepherd, a representative of the Alaska Library Association, said the group would like to see amendments to the legislation.

"We recognize there needs to be a balance of parents' rights, children's rights, library staff rights and the protection of public property," Shepherd said.

The group suggests allowing library records to be released to parents if a child's books are overdue.

Other than overdue fines, the group would like the bill to require children's written permission for parents to see their records or pick up books for them.

Shepherd said children sometimes seek information on problems or health conditions their families may not be comfortable talking about.

"It's hard enough to get kids in the library to use materials that are reliable, and we don't want to undermine their trust in our ability to give them access to materials," Shepherd said.

Not all librarians oppose the measure. Gini Geary, interim library director at the Matanuska-Susitna campus of University of Alaska Anchorage, wrote Green to voice her support for the bill.

"Parents are responsible for and can be held accountable for the actions of their dependent children," Geary said.

Only eight other states allow parents to inspect children's non-school public library records, Shepherd said, although some additional states allow access if books are overdue or with the child's written permission.

The Health Education and Social Services Committee approved Senate Bill 269 Monday, and it can now be scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor.



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