Children and Privacy in School Libraries


An Educational Service of the American Library Association

Office for Information Technology Policy


Prepared by Leslie Harris & Associates - in conjunction with OITP staff -


There is some debate about how COPPA should be implemented in school libraries and schools in general.  School librarians must balance the mandate to provide access to information with the restrictions of COPPA.  Ultimately, school librarians seek to make sure that COPPA protects children's privacy rights without unduly restricting their access to information.  To that end, school librarians should be actively involved in their school's implementation of COPPA to ensure that a workable plan is in place.


Unlike public libraries, school libraries do assume some in loco parentis responsibilities, or duties to act on behalf of children "in the place of a parent."  While public librarians have no authority to give consent to a web site for a child, school librarians may well be in that position in some circumstances.  Some schools may decide to authorize librarians to act in loco parentis, some may opt to seek consent through an Acceptable Use Policy signed by students and parents at the beginning of the year, and others may choose to leave all decisions of consent to parents.  The extent to which school librarians can assume parental responsibilities for students will depend in large part on decisions made by the principal, local school board or superintendent.  It will also depend on the nature of the resources being used and whether those resources require students to divulge personally identifiable information.  A leadership role for librarians might be to help ensure that school implementation of the law does not allow COPPA to interfere with curricular decisions.


In those instances in which the school is empowered to act in loco parentis, or has blanket authorization from parents through an Acceptable Use Policy or other document, school librarians will be empowered to authorize students' use of certain web sites, even if they collect personally identifiable information.  School librarians need to check with the local administration to determine the applicable guidelines for their schools.  


Further information:


Kidz Privacy Campaign:


ALA Office for Information Technology Policy:


Copyright 2002, American Library Association, Office for Information Technology Policy




This Online Privacy Tutorial is a service of the American Library Association. The content of this tutorial is primarily the work of Leslie Harris & Associates in

Washington, DC. The views expressed in these messages are not necessarily the views of ALA or Leslie Harris & Associates. This tutorial is for information only and will not necessarily provide answers to concerns that arise in any particular situation. This service is not legal advice and does not include many of the technical details arising under certain laws. If you are seeking legal advice to

address specific privacy issues, you should consult an attorney licensed to practice in your state.