Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/11/2004 01:33 PM CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
        SB 269-PARENT ACCESS TO CHILD'S LIBRARY RECORDS                                                                     
CHAIR BERT STEDMAN  announced SB 269 to be  up for consideration.                                                               
It relates  to access to library  records of a child  by a parent                                                               
or guardian. He  stated he would like to move  the bill that day.                                                               
He asked for  a motion to adopt the committee  substitute (CS) he                                                               
had prepared.                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  THOMAS  WAGONER made  a  motion  to  adopt CSSB  269  \H                                                               
version as  the working document.  There was no objection  and it                                                               
was so ordered.                                                                                                                 
CHAIR STEDMAN asked Senator Green to introduce the bill.                                                                        
SENATOR  LYDA GREEN,  sponsor  of SB  269  and representative  of                                                               
Senator  District G,  stepped forward.  She decided  to introduce                                                               
the bill  after receiving calls  from parents that  were dismayed                                                               
to  learn that  they  couldn't get  information  from the  public                                                               
library  regarding  their  children's   accounts.  She  read  the                                                               
        An eight-year-old boy put several books from the                                                                        
      children's section of the library on hold. Later in                                                                       
     the week, the  library called to inform the  boy one of                                                                    
     his  books was  available. The  mother, who  was taking                                                                    
     the message, asked which book,  to be able to relay the                                                                    
     title  to  her  son.  The  library  informed  her  that                                                                    
     because  of  privacy laws  they  would  not reveal  any                                                                    
     information to the  mother on the books  that her eight                                                                    
     year old was checking out.                                                                                                 
SENATOR  GREEN relayed  another instance  in which  the mayor  of                                                               
Wasilla was unable  to access her child's records  when she tried                                                               
to find out when a book was due  to be returned. As a result, the                                                               
books  became overdue  at which  time  the library  gave her  the                                                               
titles of the books so that they could be returned.                                                                             
That parent took  her son's library card away and  now checks his                                                               
books out  on her card. Senator  Green said, "She would  like him                                                               
to have  his own  card but  parents have the  right to  know what                                                               
books are being checked out so  they can teach their children the                                                               
responsibility  of  having  their  own  card  and  getting  books                                                               
returned on time."                                                                                                              
Senator  Green  said those  two  instances  caused her  to  begin                                                               
looking  at  the  statute  and she  learned  that  public  school                                                               
libraries  already have  the requirement  that  they provide  the                                                               
information to the parent.                                                                                                      
What was omitted,  she suggested, was that  public libraries were                                                               
not  included   in  the  definition.  SB   269  removes  specific                                                               
reference to  "public elementary  or secondary  school" libraries                                                               
and changes  "minor" child to  a child  "under 17 years  of age."                                                               
Page  2,  subsection (c)  amends  AS  40.25.140 and  says,  "This                                                               
section   applies  to   libraries  operated   by  the   state,  a                                                               
municipality,  or a  public school,  including the  University of                                                               
Alaska, and by a public library nonprofit corporation."                                                                         
SENATOR  LINCOLN noted  the zero  fiscal note  and asked  whether                                                               
libraries might need extra staff if this were to pass.                                                                          
SENATOR  GREEN replied  she couldn't  imagine they  would because                                                               
the bill doesn't  require the library to do  anything but respond                                                               
to parent's  questions regarding  their children's  accounts. She                                                               
added  she  was very  surprised  to  find  that the  statute  was                                                               
interpreted as a privacy issue.                                                                                                 
SENATOR  LINCOLN  asked  about  any  feedback  from  the  Library                                                               
SENATOR GREEN advised she received a letter of opposition from                                                                  
the Alaska Library Association.                                                                                                 
SENATOR LINCOLN asked for a summary of the opposition.                                                                          
SENATOR GREEN read the following:                                                                                               
      Briefly, my concerns about SB 269 can be outlined as                                                                      
        · The vast majority of public libraries in the                                                                          
          state  have  automated   checkout  systems.  These                                                                    
          systems   are   designed  to   delete   borrower's                                                                    
          information  upon  the  return  of  books.  Public                                                                    
          libraries  don't keep  exhaustive  lists of  books                                                                    
          borrowed  by library  users over  time. Thus,  the                                                                    
          only  "records" a  library will  have  will be  of                                                                    
          books currently checked out.                                                                                          
        · Parents and their children can easily obtain                                                                          
          information   about  books   that  are   currently                                                                    
          checked out  by logging  onto their  library's web                                                                    
          site. A  parent simply  needs to  sit down  with a                                                                    
          child at their home  computer, type in the child's                                                                    
          library card,  and to obtain  a list of  the books                                                                    
          currently  checked out  by a  child. Or,  a parent                                                                    
          can  encourage their  child to  simply call  their                                                                    
          public library,  and via the  pone, the  child can                                                                    
          ascertain a list of books currently checked out.                                                                      
        · Parents have other quite effective means of                                                                           
          checking   on  the   borrowing  habits   of  their                                                                    
          children.  As an  alternative  to Senator  Green's                                                                    
          sponsor statement,  in which  she says  that "tins                                                                    
          legislation allows  parents to perform  their most                                                                    
          important role  in life, that of  being a parent,"                                                                    
          I might  suggest a more  direct approach,  which I                                                                    
          don't  believe will  need  legislative approval  -                                                                    
          that talking to one's child.                                                                                          
        · In short, I feel that this is intrusive and not                                                                       
          necessary.  Since  Ben  Franklin  established  the                                                                    
          first  public   lending  library  in   the  United                                                                    
          States,  we have  not had  to  resort to  enacting                                                                    
          statutes,  which  give  a   parent  the  right  to                                                                    
          circumvent an opportunity  to communicate to their                                                                    
          children.   I  don't   see   why   we  need   this                                                                    
          legislation now.                                                                                                      
CHAIR STEDMAN asked who authored the letter.                                                                                    
SENATOR GREEN  replied it was  Michael Catoggio, who  is the                                                                    
president  of the  Alaska Library  Association,  but he  was                                                                    
expressing his personal views.                                                                                                  
SENATOR LINCOLN made an inaudible statement.                                                                                    
SENATOR GREEN replied,  "I believe that the  majority of our                                                                    
membership feel the same."                                                                                                      
SENATOR  LINCOLN disagreed  with  the  statement, but  noted                                                                    
that  many  of  the  families she  represents  don't  own  a                                                                    
computer.  In  addition,  dysfunctional families  are  found                                                                    
throughout Alaska  and it's  unlikely that  individuals from                                                                    
those family units would ever sit  down and have the type of                                                                    
conversation   Mr.   Catoggio   is  suggesting.   She   then                                                                    
encouraged Senator  Green to  get a  letter from  the Alaska                                                                    
Library Association representing their views.                                                                                   
SENATOR  GREEN  pointed  to  yet  another  personal  opinion                                                                    
letter she received.  This was from an  adjutant from Mat-Su                                                                    
College stating  that as a  library employee and  mother she                                                                    
didn't  "feel  your  further clarification  of  an  existing                                                                    
piece of  legislation is detrimental  to our  freedoms." She                                                                    
opined that  most library associations  would view  the bill                                                                    
as intrusive. She  concluded, "But I don't  actually care. I                                                                    
think it's  ridiculous for  a child  to be able  to go  to a                                                                    
library and  the parent not be  able to pick up  the book if                                                                    
the child is not with them."                                                                                                    
SENATOR  WAGONER expressed  his  personal view  that he  was                                                                    
disturbed  by the  letter because  he  couldn't really  tell                                                                    
whether the  writer was trying to  represent the association                                                                    
or himself.                                                                                                                     
CHAIR STEDMAN opened the meeting to public comments.                                                                            
MARC ANTRIM,  Commissioner of the Department  of Corrections                                                                    
announced that  he was appearing  as a concerned  parent. He                                                                    
related  a  situation that  Senator  Green  touched on  that                                                                    
speaks to an unintended consequence.                                                                                            
His daughter received her library  card when she was six and                                                                    
used the  library extensively.  Using the  automated system,                                                                    
she  would reserve  books from  home and  he would  pick her                                                                    
books up  on his way  home from  work. This worked  well for                                                                    
years  until she  was  about 13  when  the American  Library                                                                    
Association (ALA)  implemented a  nationwide confidentiality                                                                    
procedure. Because there was  no specific access requirement                                                                    
in statute,  the ALA's  interpretation is  that there  is no                                                                    
access right. This  applies not only to records  but also to                                                                    
picking  up books,  presumably because  parents could  infer                                                                    
what their children are reading.                                                                                                
He stopped  at the library  to pick up his  daughter's books                                                                    
and was  told, "Sorry, you'll  have to have your  child here                                                                    
to get the  books." He left without making an  issue, but by                                                                    
the time  he got home he  was most irritated and  decided to                                                                    
call and  get further explanation. The  librarian spoke with                                                                    
him and then his daughter and  they worked out a solution so                                                                    
that his  daughter's automated account had  a note attached,                                                                    
which allowed  him to pick  up her books. That  worked until                                                                    
she  was  about 15  when  the  policy disappeared.  After  a                                                                    
number  of  heated conversations,  he  realized  this was  a                                                                    
director's policy and the employee  at the front counter had                                                                    
no authority to change the policy.                                                                                              
The  end result  was  that his  daughter  stopped using  the                                                                    
library at  about age 15.  Whereas there may be  a debatable                                                                    
concern regarding parents having  access to their children's                                                                    
records, the  unintended consequence is that  it discourages                                                                    
some children from using public resources.                                                                                      
He closed his comments saying  this is an outrageous sort of                                                                    
situation. He  and his wife  have encouraged  their daughter                                                                    
to  read anything  and everything  that she  found to  be of                                                                    
interest.  Never,  he  said, has  he  discouraged  her  from                                                                    
reading anything  she was comfortable  reading. This  is one                                                                    
of  life's  small   problems,  but  it  would   make  a  big                                                                    
difference if parents were able  to perform a needed service                                                                    
for their children.                                                                                                             
SENATOR  GARY  STEVENS recalled  growing  up  in Oregon  and                                                                    
being  particularly  eager  to  read banned  books  such  as                                                                    
Catcher  in the  Rye, and  noted that  Mr. Antrim's  concern                                                                  
isn't  associated with  wanting to  know what  his child  is                                                                    
reading, rather it's with making  is easier for his child to                                                                    
get library books.                                                                                                              
MR.  ANTRIM agreed  completely;  he is  concerned about  the                                                                    
mechanical  process of  getting  books from  the library  to                                                                    
their home  for their  daughter to read.  He added  that the                                                                    
inference that it's not okay  for parents to know what their                                                                    
children read  would be  troubling to  some, but  that isn't                                                                    
his point.                                                                                                                      
LYNN  SHEPHARD,  Alaska Library  Association  representative                                                                    
gave a  number of  reasons why  the association  opposes the                                                                    
proposed changes.                                                                                                               
   · First, the fundamental difference between school                                                                           
      library records and public library records should be                                                                      
     recognized before considering amending the law                                                                             
   · Second, potential harm associated with parental access                                                                     
     to children's library records should be considered                                                                         
   · Third, proposed age limits aren't well aligned with                                                                        
        other age limits pertaining to privacy rights of                                                                        
School  libraries  are  developed   to  support  the  school                                                                    
curriculum, are  age appropriate, and students  are expected                                                                    
and  required  to  use them.  Children  don't  expect  their                                                                    
school records to be private  because parents receive report                                                                    
cards  and are  able to  learn about  test scores.  However,                                                                    
school librarians have  a code of ethics and  they respect a                                                                    
student's privacy  with regard to materials  that they check                                                                    
In  contrast, membership  in a  public library  is voluntary                                                                    
and  children expect  to find  more and  different kinds  of                                                                    
material  in  the  public  library.  The  only  reason  that                                                                    
parents  are   required  to  co-sign  on   their  children's                                                                    
accounts  is  to  acknowledge  that  they  assume  financial                                                                    
responsibility for lost of damaged materials.                                                                                   
The  second  point  relates  to  weighing  the  benefits  of                                                                    
releasing a  child's public  library record  to a  parent or                                                                    
guardian  against  the instances  in  which  there might  be                                                                    
potential harm.  She pointed out that  library records could                                                                    
reveal a  child's personal concerns  and a parent  could use                                                                    
that information  to the  child's detriment.  She questioned                                                                    
what might happen  to the child who  was seeking information                                                                    
about a sensitive  issue that a parent  couldn't or wouldn't                                                                    
address. A child  might be reluctant to go to  an adult, but                                                                    
not  to   go  to  the   privacy  of  the  library   to  seek                                                                    
She  posed a  number of  hypothetical situations  librarians                                                                    
must take  into consideration  and insisted  that librarians                                                                    
go  to great  lengths  to cultivate  trust  in patrons.  She                                                                    
suggested   that  trust   in  public   officials  could   be                                                                    
undermined if confidentiality can't  be expected. After all,                                                                    
other  professionals don't  have  to reveal  to parents  the                                                                    
types of information they collect.                                                                                              
Furthermore,   a  child's   health  and   safety  might   be                                                                    
compromised  if  information about  his  or  her address  or                                                                    
domicile  is released.  She noted  there is  nothing in  the                                                                    
proposed legislation that would protect a child from that.                                                                      
With regard to  setting the age limit at 18,  she pointed to                                                                    
the Family  Educational Rights and Privacy  Act (FERPA) that                                                                    
confers rights  on the student  rather than the parent  of a                                                                    
dependent student whenever that  student is attending a post                                                                    
secondary  institution.  It's  not age  based,  rather  it's                                                                    
based on affiliation.                                                                                                           
In  1998,  the  Children's  Online  Privacy  Protection  Act                                                                    
(COPPA) was passed and set the  age of "under 13" as the age                                                                    
at which  parental consent is  required to  collect personal                                                                    
Under  AS  09.55.590,  a  16   year  old  may  petition  for                                                                    
emancipation  and  the  rights of  adulthood,  exclusive  of                                                                    
voting and alcohol, are conferred.                                                                                              
CHAIR STEDMAN  informed her that  the CS lowered the  age to                                                                    
under 17.                                                                                                                       
MS.  SHEPHERD said  she had  the previous  version at  which                                                                    
time Mr. Baker handed her a copy of the CS.                                                                                     
Finally, she  noted that the  Library Bill of Rights  is the                                                                    
American  Library Association's  statement regarding  policy                                                                    
guidelines and  it includes  the confidentiality  of library                                                                    
records. She read,                                                                                                              
     The American Library  Association affirms that all                                                                         
     libraries  are forums  for information  and ideas,                                                                         
     and  that  the  following  basic  policies  should                                                                         
     guide their services.                                                                                                      
     V. A person's right to use a library should not                                                                            
     be denied or abridged because of origin, age,                                                                              
     background, or views.                                                                                                      
The  Alaska Library  Association officially  interprets that                                                                    
to  mean  that,  "Librarians  and  governing  bodies  should                                                                    
maintain that  parents and only  parents have the  right and                                                                    
the responsibility to restrict  the access of their children                                                                    
and  only their  children to  library resources.  Librarians                                                                    
have a  professional commitment to  ensure that  all members                                                                    
of the  community they serve  have free and equal  access to                                                                    
the  entire  range of  library  resources  and this  applies                                                                    
equally to  all users, minors  as well as adults."  In their                                                                    
view,  not  protecting  the  confidentiality  of  a  minor's                                                                    
records would be an abridgement of the child's rights.                                                                          
SENATOR WAGONER asked her to  read the last two sentences of                                                                    
her statement.                                                                                                                  
MS. SHEPHERD did so and  added, " Parents or legal guardians                                                                    
who do  not want  their children to  have access  to certain                                                                    
library services,  materials or facilities should  so advise                                                                    
their children."  They believe  that parental  monitoring is                                                                    
the right approach.                                                                                                             
SENATOR  WAGONER  replied  that's  what the  bill  does.  He                                                                    
agreed that  it is  the parent's right  and the  bill allows                                                                    
parental monitoring. He said, "I'm a little confused."                                                                          
MS.  SHEPHERD  asserted  that  parents  might  monitor  what                                                                    
access  their  child  has to  library  resources,  but  once                                                                    
they've checked  something out there  should be  no parental                                                                    
access to that record.                                                                                                          
SENATOR LINCOLN understood the  concerns expressed, which is                                                                    
why she asked  whether the Alaska Library  Association had a                                                                    
position. She  then asked what  Ms. Shepherd's role  is with                                                                    
the association.                                                                                                                
MS. SHEPHERD said she is  a professional librarian, a member                                                                    
of  the  Alaska  Library Association  and  the  governmental                                                                    
relations coordinator for the association.                                                                                      
SENATOR  LINCOLN asked  if the  association met  and took  a                                                                    
position on the legislation.                                                                                                    
MS. SHEPHERD replied the association met virtually.                                                                             
SENATOR LINCOLN admitted she wasn't  clear about whether the                                                                    
president  of the  association was  representing himself  or                                                                    
the  association   officially.  He  signed  the   letter  as                                                                    
president  of the  Alaska Library  Association,  but it  was                                                                    
unclear whether  he was  speaking for  the group.  Since Ms.                                                                    
Shepherd says she is speaking  for the association, she said                                                                    
she'd register her testimony as such.                                                                                           
Next she asked  for clarification about how  parents can log                                                                    
on the library website and find  out which books a child has                                                                    
checked out.                                                                                                                    
MS.  SHEPHERD  replied  each  person's  record  is  password                                                                    
protected so  a parent wouldn't  have access unless  a child                                                                    
revealed his or her password.                                                                                                   
SENATOR  LINCOLN acknowledged  that the  direct approach  of                                                                    
talking with  one's child  is best, but  she doubted  that a                                                                    
child faced with  abuse or neglect would try to  talk to the                                                                    
As a  parent, she  is concerned that  parents are  unable to                                                                    
pick  up  library books  for  their  children. Although  her                                                                    
children  are adults,  she wanted  to be  involved in  their                                                                    
activities when  they were  young. She  knew what  they were                                                                    
reading,  but   at  that  time   she  had  access   to  that                                                                    
information.  If  a  parent   is  involved,  she  suggested,                                                                    
they'll know.                                                                                                                   
MS.  SHEPHERD agreed  that involved  parents probably  would                                                                    
know,  but the  library  wants  to protect  the  child if  a                                                                    
parent   isn't  involved   and  the   family  situation   is                                                                    
problematic.   Stories  abound   about  librarians   forming                                                                    
relationships with  children in  libraries because  they are                                                                    
alone and seeking refuge.                                                                                                       
SENATOR  WAGONER commented  that  coaches  are the  greatest                                                                    
counselors  in the  world  and librarians  may  be the  next                                                                    
best.  He admitted  that  he favors  the  parent's right  to                                                                    
know, but made the point that  it's not necessary to check a                                                                    
book  out in  order to  get information.  They can  read the                                                                    
book and then put the book back on the shelf.                                                                                   
SENATOR GARY STEVENS  asked about her mention  of "under 13"                                                                    
as  the age  that parental  consent is  required to  collect                                                                    
personal information.  When he was raising  his children, he                                                                    
encouraged  them to  read anything  they might  select after                                                                    
they reached a certain age and level of maturity.                                                                               
MS. SHEPHERD  said the Children's Online  Privacy Protection                                                                    
Act is a federal law that  was passed in 1998. It relates to                                                                    
collecting personal information  online and was particularly                                                                    
directed  at  e-commerce  because problems  associated  with                                                                    
individuals making  personal contact with children  over the                                                                    
Internet had arisen.  A company or individual  is liable for                                                                    
questioning  online  anyone that  is  under  13 without  the                                                                    
parent's  consent.  It  doesn't   matter  how  innocent  the                                                                    
question may appear.                                                                                                            
SENATOR GARY  STEVENS asked  if she  would recommend  an age                                                                    
other that 17 for this bill.                                                                                                    
MS. SHEPHERD said  that would be a  compromise. Speaking for                                                                    
herself,  she  compared  meetings  between  a  child  and  a                                                                    
councilor  to a  child's  dealings with  a librarian  saying                                                                    
that if  children aren't able  to trust librarians  it would                                                                    
impact the way libraries provide their service.                                                                                 
SENATOR   WAGONER  said   he   had  difficulty   correlating                                                                    
confidentiality  regarding   library  books  to   his  child                                                                    
visiting a councilor.                                                                                                           
MS. SHEPHERD replied parents might  make a child feel guilty                                                                    
about their  book selection. She  argued the  situations are                                                                    
analogous if  you consider that  the child might  be seeking                                                                    
personal guidance.                                                                                                              
SENATOR  LINCOLN  advised  that   her  questions  were  more                                                                    
numerous because Ms. Shepherd  was representing a group, not                                                                    
because she was trying to put  her on the spot. She referred                                                                    
to a previous  statement that a child doesn't  have to check                                                                    
a book  out to garner  information on a sensitive  topic and                                                                    
asked how many  children might actually check  out that type                                                                    
of  book rather  than  reading  it while  they  were in  the                                                                    
MS.  SHEPHERD  replied she  was  interested  in the  child's                                                                    
privacy rights  in the instances  in which a  child actually                                                                    
would take that step.                                                                                                           
CAROL HEADMAN testified  as a parent to  express support for                                                                    
the  opinions of  the library  association and  the existing                                                                    
legislation.  With  regard   to  the  mechanical  difficulty                                                                    
associated with  picking up your child's  library books, she                                                                    
pointed out that  there is frequently the  option of posting                                                                    
a permission slip on the child's account.                                                                                       
SIDE B                                                                                                                        
2:20 pm                                                                                                                       
SENATOR  WAGONER noted  that the  bill sponsor  didn't delve                                                                    
into the  issue of a  child with  a problem who  was seeking                                                                    
information. Her focus  was to make it  possible for parents                                                                    
to pick  up and  check on their  child's books.  He remarked                                                                    
the issue could easily be expanded to ridiculous lengths.                                                                       
MS. HEADMAN agreed and said  that's the potential difficulty                                                                    
with  expanding the  current law  beyond the  public school.                                                                    
She suggested  the simple solution  is to find a  way around                                                                    
the mechanical  difficulty addressed by the  first testifier                                                                    
and to leave the age and access issue unchanged.                                                                                
SENATOR GARY STEVENS asked whether she was a librarian.                                                                         
MS. HEADMAN replied she is a librarian.                                                                                         
SENATOR  GARY   STEVENS  commented  that  the   bill  raises                                                                    
important questions.                                                                                                            
SENATOR WAGONER expanded  on that point to  say that Senator                                                                    
Green gave examples about children  that were under 10 years                                                                    
old. He  asked the  Chair if he  would consider  holding the                                                                    
bill  to   have  a  further  discussion   with  the  sponsor                                                                    
regarding  the  age requirement.  He  also  stated, for  the                                                                    
record,  that  he  would  be  consulting  his  wife  on  the                                                                    
SENATOR GARY STEVENS  chimed in to say  he was uncomfortable                                                                    
changing the  age at this  point, but he would  request that                                                                    
the  bill  sponsor   look  at  the  issue  to   look  for  a                                                                    
JACQUELINE  TUPOU, staff  to Senator  Green, replied  the CS                                                                    
before the committee  has an age compromise.  There has been                                                                    
an extensive discussion related  to the age issue. Seventeen                                                                    
states  have   specifically  spelled  out  this   right  and                                                                    
fourteen of those  have established 17 and under  as the age                                                                    
limit.  Most  states  simply  refer  to  a  minor.  After  a                                                                    
thorough dialog,  Senator Green decided to  compromise on 17                                                                    
and under.                                                                                                                      
SENATOR  LINCOLN  concurred  with her  colleagues  regarding                                                                    
holding the  bill. She then  noted that the version  she was                                                                    
reviewing listed the age as 16.                                                                                                 
MS. TUPOU agreed and said that's why they feel they have                                                                        
already made a compromise.                                                                                                      
CHAIR STEDMAN announced he would hold the bill for further                                                                      

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