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The USA PATRIOT Act

The Uniting and Strengthening America by Proving Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT Act) of 200l (Public Law 107-56, 115 STAT.272, H.R. 3162) was enacted on October 25, 2001 and signed by President George W. Bush the following day. The Act is to provide the tools and investigative powers to "deter and punish terrorist acts in the United State and around the world." It was reauthorized on March 9, 2006.

Libraries and library users have been impacted by this act. The USA PATRIOT Act (The Tribune Co., Florida, July 5, 2002 Friday, FINAL EDITION as reported in the Lexis-Nexis database)

  • "Allows an FBI agent to obtain a search warrant for 'any tangible thing,' including books, records, papers, floppy disks, data tapes and computers with hard drives.
  • Permits the FBI to compel production of library circulation records, Internet use records and registration information stored in any medium.
  • Does not require the agent to demonstrate 'probable cause,' the existence of specific facts to support the belief that a crime has been committed or that the items sought are evidence of a crime. Instead, the agent only needs to claim that he believes that the records he wants may be pertinent to an ongoing investigation related to terrorism or intelligence activities, a very low legal standard."

Further, the Act prohibits library employees from informing a user if a federal agent has obtained records about the user or that a search has occurred.

To protect the privacy of UDM students, faculty, staff and community users and their use of library resources, the following standards are in place:

  • Patrons do not sign in to use library computers so there is no way to trace who has used a particular computer or conducted a particular search.
  • Every morning when the public access computers are rebooted the history and other cached information on each computer is automatically deleted.
  • When library resources are returned by a patron, assuming there are no unpaid overdue fees, the record of who had the material checked out is purged when a Horizon software (UDM's cataloging and circulation software) process called DayEnd is run every night.
  • When an item from the reserve collection at either circulation desk is returned, the patron's name is separated from the item borrowed and the online record purged when a Horizon software (UDM's cataloging and circulation software) process called DayEnd is run every night.
  • The online record for an interlibrary loan includes only the status (faculty, student, or staff) and one initial of the requester's name.
  • By law, interlibrary loan paper records must be kept for five years so when any borrowed book is returned to the lending library or a journal article is received, the patron's name is separated from the paper record.
  • An Infopass borrower's name is excised from the paper record the same day as an item is checked out.


A patron's privacy is in jeopardy should a search warrant or subpoena be issued when:

  • The user's name is attached to any item currently checked out of the library.
  • The user's name is attached to any item where there is an unpaid fine or item is lost and fees still need to be paid.
  • The user's name is attached to any reserve item checked out as building-use-only.


For further information on The USA PATRIOT ACT and libraries consult the American Library Association website (http://ala.org) and search Patriot Act.

Permalink Last updated 01/06/2017 by R. Davidson

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