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“Return of Library Materials” Bill - SB466/AB609

AN ACT to renumber 43.30(1b (a); and to create 43.30(1b)(ae) and 43.30(6) of the statutes; relating to: authorizing certain libraries to notify collection agencies and law enforcement agencies of delinquent accounts.


In response to contacts by WLA members in December 2015, the following legislators signed on as co-sponsors to draft bill LRB-1760, which is now identical bills SB466 and AB609:

Harsdorf (lead Senate author), Gudex, Kapenga, Moulton, Stroebel, Wanggaard, Ringhand and Bewley

VanderMeer (lead Assembly author), Allen, Bernier, E. Brooks, Czaja, Edming, Jacque, Krug, Kulp, Loudenbeck, Murphy, Mursau, Nerison, A. Ott, Petryk, Ripp, Rohrkaste, Swearingen, Tittl and Kahl

If you live in the district of one of the 28 co-sponsors and have not already written a thank you note to him/her, please do so.  Handwritten notes are remembered and much prized!

The twin bills have been assigned to a committee in each house. A hearing must be scheduled and a committee vote taken to approve and move the legislation forward. There is a limited window of opportunity within which a bill may advance to the floor of both legislative houses for a vote prior to the end of this legislative session.  2015-2016 Session Schedule and remaining floor periods.

If you live in the district of one of the legislators listed below, please contact them to voice your support ASAP. Click on each name for contact information.

Senate Bill 466 is assigned to the Committee on Elections and Local Government

Senator LeMahieu (Chair)

Senator Kapenga (Vice-Chair)

Senator Wanggaard

Senator Risser

Senator Miller


Assembly Bill 609 is assigned to the Committee on Urban and Local Affairs

Representative E. Brooks (Chair)

Representative Hutton (Vice-Chair)

Representative Novak

Representative Quinn

Representative Steffen

Representative Skowronski

Representative Genrich

Representative Young

Representative Subeck

See below for background and talking points.


The twin bills will make changes to s.43.30 regarding the disclosure of patron records to a third party. A copy of the bill text is found HERE.

Under current law, records of a public library that indicate the identity of any  person who borrows or uses the library’s documents or other materials, resources, or services may not be disclosed EXCEPT

  • when pursuant to a court order
  • to the library’s staff acting within the scope of their duties
  • by consent of the subject of the records
  • to a custodial parent of the subject of the records
  • to another public library for purposes of borrowing materials for the  subject of the record
  • to law enforcement officers seeking records pertinent to the alleged criminal conduct that were produced by a surveillance device under the control of the library

Under this proposal, a library may disclose to a collection agency or a law enforcement agency information about delinquent accounts of any individual who borrows from the library.

  • Information to be disclosed is limited to the individual’s name, contact information, amount owed and the number and types of overdue materials (NOT the titles of the materials borrowed).
  • A library may report delinquent accounts to a law enforcement agency only if the delinquency is at least $50. 
  • There is no minimum “trigger amount” for libraries using collection agencies.  
  • This bill is designed to assist with return of lost/long overdue materials and/or payment for same per individual library board policies.

Both state law and local library board policies protect personal identity information as well as information about an individual’s personal library use.  (See s. 43.30)

  • 43.30 was last amended to allow release of surveillance tapes to law enforcement officials, but not ordinary patron records. An Attorney General’s opinion http://pld.dpi.wi.gov/files/pld/pdf/agsurveillance.pdf  was issued in 2006 on patron record confidentiality.
  • The AG opinion stated that providing circulation or other library records concerning usage by a particular patron to law enforcement required a court order when library staff do so for the purpose of assisting in the prosecution of charges violating section 943.61 (theft of library material).


Libraries respect and protect the privacy rights of citizens who utilize library services and resources. The personal information needs and intellectual pursuits of individuals using library materials or library computers are considered confidential information. 

SB466/AB609 strikes the proper balance between patron privacy and the protection of public assets while providing libraries with clear statutory support

  • Librarians are frugal and attentive guardians of the public’s assets. Their limited use of personal identity and borrowing history information aids them in
      o reminding borrowers to return overdue books and other items
      o the collection of replacement costs for lost and damaged materials
  • When library card registration data is not up-to-date, current law does not clearly address the permissible release of library records to a third party, such as a collection agency and/or to law enforcement for the purpose of assisting in the return of items and collection of amounts due to the library.
  • The legislation is enabling, not mandatory.
      o No library board will be obligated to contract with a collection agency.
      o No law enforcement agency will be obligated to retrieve library materials or collect amounts         owed for lost items
  • The bill is directed at return of materials and replacement costs, not ordinary “nickel and dime” library fines. 
  • Libraries choosing to employ collection agencies or some variant of law enforcement assistance for the purpose of assisting in the return of items and collection of amounts due to the library need clear statutory support.

WLA members and library supporters will be asked to contact their legislators several times during various steps in THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS as this bill moves forward through committee review to floor action. 

VERIFY YOUR SENATOR AND ASSEMBLY REPRESENTATIVE AND CONTACT INFO HERE by clicking on the map or typing your street address into the search box in the upper right hand corner. When the info box appears, clicking on a legislator's name will take you to his/her directory page. Staff member names are also listed. URL: http://maps.legis.wisconsin.gov/  

Shannon Shultz (Director, Portage Public Library) is project coordinator for this effort.  Contact her at sschultz@portagelibrary.us">sschultz@portagelibrary.us or at 608-697-9093

Thank you!