A Dixon Carnegie Library Preservation Society member is claiming library staff violated a government statute when patron e-mail addresses were provided to a consulting firm working on the proposed library expansion project.
Nancy Schrott submitted a report Friday to the claiming Gregg Atkins, library district Librarian, gave the e-mail addresses to AIM Consulting, a private public relations firm, without the patrons' consent.
Schrott said the consulting firm used the addresses to e-mail a newsletter to library patrons, asking them to support and promote the library expansion project. Dixon Carnegie Library Preservation Society has been at odds with the library’s plan to expand, saying the expansion would jeopardize the library’s historical significance. However, not all DCLPS members agree with Schrott's position.
Schrott said in a statement: “Inasmuch as the office of the Attorney General of the State of California has supplied me with the Government Code and the assurance that use of the library database to obtain the email addresses is in violation of Government Code 6267, and the Dixon Library is in the City of Dixon, I am requesting that the Dixon Police Department investigate the violation.”
Atkins, however, said Schrott does not understand the Government Code she is accusing the library of violating. Atkins said providing the email addresses helps the library meet its duty to its patrons to inform them of emerging services and projects at the library.
Government Code 6267 states: “All registration and circulation records of any library which is in whole or in part supported by public funds shall remain confidential and shall not be disclosed to any person or local agency.”
Exceptions to this confidentiality include disclosure: “(a) By a person acting within the scope of his or her duties within the administration of the library. (b) By a person authorized, in writing, by the individual to whom the records pertain, to inspect the records. (c) By order of the appropriate superior court.”
“The Library has the absolute right to inform its patrons about its services and projects. Nothing illegal or outrageous was done in utilizing patrons' e-mail addresses," said Atkins. "I have to say, in fact, among library circles, this way of keeping patrons informed is considered good practice. Perhaps Ms. Schrott misunderstood that aspect of the code. At any rate, her allegations are not relevant to what the library is doing.”
During a public meeting of the New Library Building Committee held March 24, 2011, at Tremont Elementary School, Donna Lucchio, a principal with AIM Consulting, the private public relations firm that Schrott mentions in her complaint, stated her firm had sent e-mail newsletters to 3500 Dixon Library patrons.
The purpose of the email newsletter put together by AIM Consulting was to encourage community members to write letters to the editor, and post Facebook messages in support of the new library expansion project, she said.
“The future library won't happen without community support,” Lucchio said.
Asked by an audience member where the e-mail addresses had been obtained, Lucchio answered they had come from the library. At that point Atkins elaborated, “The library is allowed to use e-mail addresses for library business.”
In her report to Dixon Police, Schrott stated: “A private PR firm is neither the library nor is it conducting library business. ... Library records are for library use. There is the expectation of privacy when a patron of the library gives his/her e-mail address. The expectation is that it will be used to inform the patron that his/her book is due, or that book he/she requested is available, even to stretch a point, that the library is having a meeting. It is not ever to be used by a private public relations firm or any other entity not the library.”
The email addresses given by to AIM were entered by patrons utilizing the database maintained by the Solano, Napa, and Partners (SNAP) Library Consortium, which offers general homework help and specialized information on everything from auto repair to genealogy and much more.
Schrott said she wants Atkins to issue an apology and for AIM will stop sending its e-newsletter in support of the new library expansion project to library patron e-mail addresses without their consent.
Matters such as the one that Schrott is alleging are typically handled through the state's Attorney General's office or perhaps the county's District Attorney's office. If it's determined that a violation occurred, it could pave the way for a class-action lawsuit on behalf of library patrons.
Editors note: An earlier version of this story carried an inaccurate headline. Athough Schrott is a member of the Dixon Carnegie Library Preservation Society, the society as a whole does not endorse the allegations that Schrott has made against the librarian, staff.