June 15, 2009
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your correspondence.
I have received your letter concerning a request for email addresses that “are used strictly for the purpose of sending out general communications” by the North Castle Public Library to library card holders. The person seeking the records has contended that §4509 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) “is intended to protect library users from inquiries related to their use of library resources”, and that he merely wants their email addresses.
From my perspective, the language of §4509 of the CPLR is clear and unequivocal:
“Library records, which contain names or other personally identifying details regarding the users of public, free association, school, college and university libraries and library systems of this state...shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed except that such records may be disclosed to the extent necessary for the proper operation of such library and shall be disclosed up request or consent of the user or pursuant to subpoena, court order or where otherwise required by statute.”
In my view, it can be assumed that a library card holder is a user of the services provided by a library. An email address of a card holder maintained by the Library is a “library record” based on the definition of the term “record” appearing in §86(4) of the Freedom of Information Law, and I believe that the email address would constitute a “personally identifying detail” regarding a user of the Library.
Based on the foregoing, in my opinion, the North Castle Public Library is prohibited from disclosing the email addresses of library card holders, unless a disclosure is made with the prior consent of a card holder, or pursuant to a subpoena, a court order or is required by statute.
I hope that I have been of assistance. Should any further questions arise, please feel free to contact me.
Robert J. Freeman