Library chief draws cops' ire


Story Out Of New Jersey where Library Director Michele Reutty is under fire by the mayor for refusing to give police library circulation records without a subpoena.
Reutty, the director for 17 years, now faces possible discipline by the library board. Members of the Borough Council have suggested she receive punishment ranging from a letter of reprimand in her personnel file to a 30-day unpaid suspension. But the Library Board of Trustees said it would reserve judgment until a closed-door hearing next month.

The whole episode is "shocking," Reutty said Wednesday. "I followed the law. And because I followed the law, at the end of the day, the policemen's case is going to hold strong. Nobody is going to sue the library and nobody is going to sue the municipality of Hasbrouck Heights because information was given out illegally."


But then I read the complete article and I have a few concerns:

The police should not have wasted time asking for the records, the police should have known that they were precluded by law (Specifically NJ State Statue 18A:73-43.2) from being given the records without an order from the Court. Had they been given the records defense counsel certainly would have objected. Well they would have objected if it ever got that far because of their failures to follow the law. No prosecuting attorney is going to take a losing case to trial.

That said the librarian made errors as well. The Borough had in place a policy for handling subpoenas that involved immediately calling the Borough Attorney. She didn't do that; she called the NJ library association. Failing to follow the established policy is why the librarian is in trouble, and I can't blame the Borough for disciplining her.

Sure I'm all for protecting patron records but I'm also for imprisoning criminals. The librarian could have followed procedure; the librarian could have helped them locate the patron using whatever automation system they have. There was no need to delay the production of the records requested. The librarian should have prepared for the issuance of the second subpoena, had the subpoena not materialized the librarian could have disposed of the records without violating the law. Don't tell me your library can't generate a report of all the books checked out this morning with the word Bees or whatever the accused had in the title of his book. If you can't personally do it your IT staff can. (If they can't you have more problems than you know.)

So I agree that the librarian stonewalled the police, but I also think the police tried an end run around the law, an end run that most probably cost them any case they would have had the librarian not followed the law.

How about a couple of days off without pay for the librarian and a mandatory education program about the laws regarding library records for the police?

The only one in this whole scenario who was not wrong was the little girl who was threatened.

I hope the ALA and NJLA don't make librarians look like idiots with this one. It is not about patron privacy New Jersey has a law to deal with that, it is about following established policy. The Borough Attorney was the appropriate person to deal with the subpoena.

ALA is teaching librarians to be political first, professional second. Shame on us for putting up with it.

Judging from the article the only crime Reutty committed was to uphold the law and thereby stonewall jackbooted, reactionary "law" enforcement. Good for her. Of course those who have been frustrated will seize upon any handy excuse, such as her maybe not having followed proper procedure in upholding the law, to punish her for setting a higher standard than they wished to work to.

It is bitterly ironic that those who would have violated the law in violating procedure are now attempting to punish someone who violated procedure to uphold the law.

From the article, library director followed the law (NJ Statute) rather than the County/Municipality procedure. From the article, sounds like she did the right thing and followed the law. They should back off.

But the procedure was (apparently) upon receipt of a subpoena to contact the borough attorney. Not give up the records and contact the attorney, just contact the attorney. That is what any librarian or public official should do - contact the attorney paid to represent the library, or the parking ticket bureau, or whatever department recieved the subpoena.

No she didn't contact the borough attorney, she didn't contact the attorney who is paid to deal with these things, she didn't contact the attorney who would represent the library. She contacted someone else of her own choosing. That is where she went wrong.

The NJ Library association attorney cannot represent the borough. The NJLA attorney cannot attempt to quash the subpoena, the NJLA attorney cannot even offer advice to the librarian because the borough already has counsel. The NJLA attorney should have made that clear to the librarian.

The librarian knew the law regarding patron records, we must assume the borough counsel knew the law and that the records would not be released without an order from the court. When the request (sans order) was made the librarian should have said, "No I can't do that because of the Statute." She then should have contacted the borough attorney. She didn't she is wrong. That fact that she obeyed the law notwithstanding she failed to follow procedure, involved outside counsel contraty to established policy, and she farted around trying to blow things out of proportion rather than trying to educate the police and helping the officers work within the law.

It is possible to follow both the state statute and the borough procedure. In fact it was imperative that she do so. She didn't.

I say fire her.