Q: “I’m writing a paper and am researching privacy for minors. Do parents have access to their kids’ borrowing history?”
Thank you for your important question! It touches upon the rights of minors, their legal guardians/parents, and how libraries balance children’s privacy with safety and parental responsibilities.
Public and school libraries work hard to protect children while valuing rights to privacy. Although libraries tend to vary to some degree in order to meet the needs of each community, there are child protection laws that directly affect how any government agency works with minors. Libraries and librarians steadfastly adhere to protecting children from abusive Internet sites, for example, and help guide children to appropriate materials for their homework and reading pleasure, as well as to enhance every family member’s lives. After all, children are part of a whole system and libraries are in a unique position to offer enriching programs and materials for each generation’s interests and learning styles.
Generally, parents/guardians assist their children with library card applications and retain responsibility for library materials checked out and resources used. As stated, “Children under the age of 18 must have a parent or guardian present to sign for the card. “ Here is a link to the Delaware Library Card Application that shows this information.
The above link also brings you specific links for each county’s library card applications and the wording for parental responsibility for their minor’s use and access.
The American Library Association offers guidelines that help each library make professional decisions about how to address the privacy concerns of a minor with a parent or guardian who is legally responsible for borrowed library items:
“Parental responsibility is key to a minor’s use of the library. Notifying parents about the library’s privacy and confidentiality policies should be a part of the process of issuing library cards to minors. In some public libraries, the privacy rights of minors may differ slightly from those of adults, often in proportion to the age of the minor. The legitimate concerns for the safety of children in a public place can be addressed without unnecessary invasion of minors’ privacy while using the library.”
I hope this gives you the information you need for your research. Please feel free to to consult with a specific Delaware public library as well. As librarians and community members we are glad to have your questions and patronage.