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Preservation Society Member Claims Librarian, Staff Improperly Gave Out Email Addresses

Former Dixon Librarian Nancy Schrott claims that District Librarian Gregg Atkins and his staff violated a section of the Government Code.

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. 

Jessi Besseghini April 18, 2011 at 02:41 PM
“The Library has the absolute right to inform its patrons about its services and projects..." according to 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.” Ms. Schrott didn't misunderstand anything, and these allegations are absolutely relevant! The library *may* have the right to send out emails which are not account/circulation-related--that is, if people opted-in with their email addresses. And while sending updates and newsletters is certainly "good practice" among library circles, nearly every organization nowadays has a "Would you like to recieve newsletters pertaining to ______?" checkbox at the end of a registration form. If I don't mark yes, I will expect to be getting email notifications only about things that pertain personally to me and my account, not PR campaign emails from another branch of the organization. I am not taking an overall stance for or against the Dixon Carnegie Library Preservation Society, nor Gregg Atkins... All I know is that in this day and age, people should know better than to hand off any patron's contact information to a PR firm without express written consent. It doesn't matter the reason--THAT is NOT "good practice."
Tacy Currey April 18, 2011 at 04:05 PM
So the firm will create the email newsletter and provide it to the library to email. Crisis solved and information still distributed.
Maggie April 21, 2011 at 05:19 AM
Good idea Tacy!
Susan B. Werrin April 21, 2011 at 03:57 PM
We would like to comment regarding the gross presumption and inaccurate information gathering by the editorial staff: The premise of the formation and the primary purpose of the DCLPS is to protect, preserve and restore our historically significant Carnegie Library for the future citizens of Dixon. We would appreciate your adding a retraction to your article to clarify that the content was not the claim of the entire organization, nor did you interview any other members regarding their opinions of the matter. The DCLPS is a group of caring citizens that have worked carefully, quietly and very hard to achieve the listing in the National Register of Historic Places for our Carnegie. While we do appreciate past Patch articles recounting our achievement, we do not want our name associated with investigations regarding the Library District.
Carlos Villatoro April 21, 2011 at 04:26 PM
@Susan, thank you for the clarification, I went ahead and fixed the headline and added an editor's note.
Brian Elsasser April 22, 2011 at 02:25 AM
@Carlos and Susan -- To clarify the revised sub-headline with a slight further tweak: of course not all library staff violated the pertinent section of the government code. In fact I have heard on background, from a reliable source, that it was Gregg Atkins who ordered the patron email addresses handed over to AIM Public Relations.
Nancy Schrott April 22, 2011 at 02:52 PM
Let us clarify. I knew Gregg was wrong when he dismissed the question of legality at the March 24 meeting of the new library building committee. Everyone who has ever worked in a library knows the database is for library use ONLY. Giving the email addresses of 3500 patrons to a privated PR firm is not library business. AIM Consulting may be contacting those 3500 people about library business, but they are not "the library." They have no right, as a private public relations firm to have or use those email addresses. Read the CA Government Code 6267. It is very clear.
Berry van der Linden April 22, 2011 at 06:54 PM
A little bit of clarification on my part. I have been developing websites since 2000, I have extended knowledge about not only e-mail addresses but anything submitted through a form on a website. Not because I wanted t but because I have to. The major point here is did the people providing their e-mail address know that they where being added to a mailing-list. I took a look at the website of the Dixon Library: http://www.dixonlibrary.com Looking at the website I see no terms at all. Normally terms of use, terms of service or a Privacy Policy. The privacy policy is the most important document here. It provides the user of the website with information about what will be done with the private information submitted through the website. Here is an example of a privacy policy on one of my websites: http://ecoabuse.com/privacy-policy/ Note that in this policy it clearly states that the information submitted(which includes your e-mail) may be used to send you a newsletter. It also gives clear explanation on the use of the information. And there is a information sharing clause that states: "Ecoabuse.com will not sell or otherwise share personally identifying information with other people or nonaffiliated companies except to provide services to you at your request, or as required by law."
Berry van der Linden April 22, 2011 at 06:57 PM
This is in compliance with the law. Going back to the website of the Library and starting the e-card application. The page you are send to has a small FAQ which mentions nothing on how the information will be used. The SnapWeb website you are send to doesn't state what is going to be done with the information either. The only thing it does state is this: "Statement of Responsibility: By submitting this form and as the authorized user, I accept responsibility for all materials checked out with this card. I will notify the library of any changes of address. I will report a lost card immediately. I agree to pay all charges for overdue, lost and damaged materials." This also doesn't mention use of the e-mail or addition to a newsletter. There is a link on this page that directs you to another FAQ which also doesn't make a mention of the use of information received. The Snap home page also has nothing no privacy policy no terms. Therefore they a clearly not in compliance with the laws in place. They should change this, as well as he website it's ugly but that is my personal opinion. To clarify, they would have been able to provide the marketing company with the e-mails if they would have added a privacy policy.
Hayward S. Melville April 24, 2011 at 07:19 PM
It seems to me that most everyone wants a next generation library, both, all, sides. All this nonsense about legal technicalities saps vital energy and dampens public enghusiasm when the real issues, like funding, remain unresolved. Do I smell sour grapes at work here? In the final analysis the Dixon public will decide if they want a brand new library or a edition inclusive of the old "Carnegie" in some form or another. Let's get to work crafting something that will have the most popular appeal, something that will garner the most votes at the Bond Election. Legitimate differences of opinion can occur on any project, but I would think that the final outcome, even if it is not perfect (what outcome is perfect), is what everyone should agree is the most important factor. If there are substantial unresolved issues both sides should get together and resolve them, but a minor technicality of e-mail addresses regardless of culpability. Come on, get serious about the business at hand. Let's get past these petty issues and get on whti the important business at hand.
Nancy Schrott April 25, 2011 at 04:30 AM
Hayward, the" important business at hand" as you call it, referring to Brian Elsasser's article has nothing to do with the new library. If you had attended the Commission meetings you would know that this is about the abuse of staff and patrons at the hands of the library administration; and the FACT that the librarian cannot give patron email addresses from the database to a private company.

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