WhenWisconsin lawmakers crafted a library privacy law, they probably weren't thinking about protecting sex maniacs in the stacks, but that seems to be effect. The Neenah Public Library has a surveillance video of a man who reportedly was masturbating in the nonfiction stacks, but they aren't going to release the tape without a court order, reports the Post Crescent.
"That is state law," City Attorney James Godlewski said Monday. "The library is merely following what state law says."
The law was originally drafted to prevent the release of public library records that might indicate the identity of a library user. An opinion on the law found that it also applies to recordings that could identify a person but not the particular library materials or resources used by that person. The only exception to the law is if someone's life or safety is at risk.
No word on what books the bibliophile might have been hot and bothered about. Perhaps the memoirs of Anais Nin and Henry Miller, or maybe Plato's Republic.
"We think that this guy has been here before doing something similar but not as graphic," said library director Stephen Proces. "This may be someone who is going from library to library doing this."
After this incident, it's quite possible that the law could be amended to simultaneously protect the privacy rights of library patrons and allow library staff to provide surveillance tapes to police when criminal activity is suspected or witnessed, said Alan Lee, the assistant attorney general.
"I would recommend that the Department of Public Instruction, in consultation with library associations and librarians, propose amendments to the present statute to cure some of the statute's deficiencies," Lee said.