House says Vermonters’ library records should be kept confidential

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(Host) The Vermont House has approved legislation that makes all library records confidential, unless a judge issues a warrant for the information.

The major debate over the bill concerned the rights of parents to learn what books their children have checked out of the library.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The main focus of the bill is straightforward – library records should be confidential unless the police can persuade a judge that the information is critical to an investigation.

If a library discloses this information inappropriately, the facility can be fined and the patron of the library has the right to bring a civil action against the institution.

One exception to the law involves children under the age of 16. The legislation allows parents in these cases to request their kids’ library records.

Woodstock Rep. Allison Clarkson is a member of the House Judiciary committee. She said her panel determined that 16 year olds deserve a level of privacy that adults have and she said that there could be certain situations where the children need it:

(Clarkson) "That may involve incest that may involve parents wrong doing where a child a young person of 16 or 17 or 18 may need to have an independent affirmation or not of something that could be very important to them that they may not want their parents to know that they’re investigating."

But House minority leader Steve Adams said this provision undermines parental rights:

(Adams) "I’m concerned as many others are in this room I think very parent in this room should be outraged, outraged to know that you’ve lost your rights to know what your children in fact are reading are looking at I understand some talk here about abuse going on at the home but I think that my rights as a parent are being overridden by this action."

Moretown Rep. Maxine Grad supported the bill. She asked her colleagues to look at the legislation as an effort to establish parental rights not diminish them:

(Grad) "Under current law parents actually do not have any rights to this information so another way and I think the way to look at this bill Mr. Speaker based on the testimony that we heard is that in fact that this bill is giving parents rights that they do not currently have."

A similar bill has already been approved by the Senate.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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