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Internet Privacy and Reference Questions: With the deepest and sincerest apologies to Jane Austen: It is a truth universally acknowledged that anything you write on the Internet is as likely as not to be declared a public record or discoverable in a legal action, by a judge, state or federal attorney general, law enforcement agency, advocacy group, or an attorney. Any electronic medium disclaimer statement should reflect that fact. No matter which state or federal public records laws apply, this basic and universal truth is unassailable.

When I answer email reference questions, I use this public records disclaimer in addition to the usual one about the librarians and the unauthorized practice of law, They both make people really nervous, as they should, but not knowing is worse.

Disclaimers:

When contacting library staff users should be aware that email messages are subject to public disclosure laws and may be obtained as a public record.

It is against state law for library staff members to engage in any conduct that might constitute the unauthorized practice of law (ORS 9.160, 9.166 and 9.21). They may not interpret statutes, cases and regulations, or advise patrons regarding their legal rights. They may, however, assist patrons in locating materials or links that would aid in individual research.

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