Hit and Run Driver Located at Library, Surfing the Internet

Santa Clara librarian Karen Saunders was reading about the tragic hit-and-run on the Mercury News Web site just before 10 a.m. when she realized that last week she had talked with the wanted man - Cecil Cox, 66. Astonished, she looked around the library and thought she saw him again.

She turned away for a moment but didn't see him when she looked back. That's when she ran downstairs to the library garage with the car description and license plate number in hand. And there it was - the 1994 silver Infiniti that witnesses say struck and killed Oralia Puga Ramirez, 73, and Enedina Oliva, 70, on Saturday night.

"I immediately came upstairs and called police," Saunders said. A minute after they arrived, police found Cox at a computer surfing the Internet and took him away.


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Wow. She's lucky she didn't violate his privacy or anything.


Oh, wait, she didn't report what he was viewing on the computers, only that he was in the library. Never mind...

She used library records to identify him

The librarian says in the article ""We have a million visitors to the library each year," Saunders said. "But I did recognize his name."

Thus she used library records that included his name to identify him.

Either they are protected and the librarian should not have turned into a detective, or they are not protected.

You can't have it both ways.

Only your library records

Only your library records are private. Libraries are open, public places and the people who work there are private citizens with a vested interest in public safety. I see no reason why she shouldn't have called the police. If anything she may get in trouble for using staff computers for non-work related stuff (i.e to access the newspapers website)

How did she know his name?

I never had a patron introduce themselves to me. I did have many, many people give me their library card.

She knew his name because she worked in the library and had access to his records and could associate the name with the face.

If she had worked at the grocery store she would not have his name even if he shopped there every day.

She made the association between the name in the paper and the man in the library because she knew him from his library transactions.

If using library patron records to identify a criminal without a warrant is improper, then this is improper. You can't have it both ways.

Since when is a newspaper a

Since when is a newspaper a non-work item? Librarians are expected to know of current events when patrons ask about them.

no use of records

If I understand it right, she didn't look up his records. He was a regular enough user that she remembered his name, or at least he was memorable enough to make an impression on her. And what she actually used as specific information before calling the police was the media's information about the car. It's in a public parking lot...no secrets there.

At my library, we never give out information about who is at the library, unless it is for the police. Spouses trying to check up on each other, stalking each other...too much drama. We just don't give that info out over the phone. Now if the person wants to come to the library to find out for themselves, hey it's a public building.


They guy wasn't wearing a name tag. If she knew his name, she knew it from accessing his library records.

I was a public librarian and I worked at a reference desk that checked out computers to patrons. The only patron names I knew, I knew because they frequently used the library and I performed tasks related to their account such as checking out computers.

While she may have remembered who the man was because of his frequent visits, she would only know his name through patron records.

Either they are sacrosanct, or they are not.

I know many patron names and

I know many patron names and I know them because they've introduced themselves to me. It's not unthinkable that a librarian could know someone's name without accessing their records.

Still library related

If you did not work in the library would they have introduced themselves to you. Do you introduce yourself to people in the hardware store, the shoe store, the post office? No, however you may introduce yourself to people to whom you provide private information - the insurance agent, the lawyer, the priest.

If the introduction was related to her position as a librarian then it was patron confidential information and should be sacrosanct.

If turning in people looking at child porn in the library is unacceptable because you are a library staff member, then turning in hit and run drivers is just as unacceptable.

For our regulars, the

For our regulars, the library is a social meeting place. Would I introduce myself in the hardware store, etc. No. But, I bet our regulars would.

there is another way

People sometimes will introduce themselves to each other thusly: "Hi, my name is Dennis. Hello, Dennis. My name is Rory."

Maybe if you lighten up someone will introduce themselves to you someday.

So a first name is enough for you to drop the dime.

Certainly people have told me their given name, seldom do they tell me their full name.

Do people come up to you at the reference desk and say "Good Morning I am Joseph W. Aardvark"? Do you respond- "Hello I am Melville L K Dewey" ? I highly doubt that.

If you think running to the parking garage to check on someone's car because they have the same first name as a suspect in a hit and run you must get a lot of exercise.

Okay, here's the problem I

Okay, here's the problem I have with this story. Initial reports say that she identified him based on his car. I read the original articles and the only evidence they had was a description of the car -- so I'm not sure where knowing his name comes into play.

And mdoneil, if Osama Bin Laden walks up to a librarian and asks for a book on rectal cancer, can the librarian report him to the authorities?

His name, then his car

As the article, and my original post note the librarian said "We have a million visitors to the library each year," Saunders said. "But I did recognize his name."

The librarian recognized the name in the article, and then went to the parking garage to confirm her suspicions. Had the name not been in the newspaper, the librarian would not have canvassed the parking garage.

That is where the name comes into play. Reading the article goes a long way into understanding the ongoing discussion.

I doubt Obama bin Laden would make it to the reference desk of the library, however if he did I would not know his name because of library records as locating a book for a patron does not require that I access the patron's library records, but the catalog. If I recognized Osama bin Laden it would be exclusive to any library records he may have. However the whole premise of your question is absurd.

bin Laden and cancer?

"if Osama Bin Laden walks up to a librarian and asks for a book on rectal cancer,"

I wouldn't report him, but the only book I would offer him would be by Kevin Trudeau ("More Things You Can Insert in Your Butt That THEY don't want You to Know About").

Seriously-what is it with

Seriously-what is it with Americans and privacy-the man killed someone and ran away, and all you can think about is his PRIVACY.You guys are a twisted lot. I hope someone runs you over, then drives away, and noone ever identifies them!


Who's the twisted one? You are wishing ill on a bunch of people you've never even met.


I knew patron's anmes that only came to read newspapers and never took out books. Therefore, I did not access their records. The older folks will tell you their names and want to know yours. Usually so that they could make demands of you but it's true nonetheless.


That's "names"

public building.

Its a public building. Being in the library is not a patron record. If the article is correct, it looks like she recognized the name, and noticed he was in the building. She didn't immediately call the cops; she verified he was the person they were looking for by checking to see if the car was in the parking lot. Still public property.

What she didn't do was call the cops the moment she recognized the name, whether she remembered him by library records or not. She looked outside the library, in a public parking lot, and verified the car the cops were looking for was there. Independent information that was most definitely not a library record.

Mdoneil, if this were a wanted child molester, what then? This was a wanted criminial, still in possession of the weapon (his car). He was a public menace in that regard.

Not a public record?

If one transacts library business in the library why is that not a library record? The man in the story accused of killing people with his car was transacting business in the library, and the librarian was there solely because of her employment at the library. The patron was using a public computer - which having been beaten to death seems for the LISNews crowd to be a protected patron transaction.

If she did not recognize the name, she would not have been prompted to play detective and check the car park. Thus it stems from knowing the name through the library record. It seems to me that you are suggesting that if there is evidence independent from the patron's record it is OK to use information in the record to link the evidence to the patron. If it were simply patron 123456 rather than the name in the paper- and in the patron record- there would have been no detective work done by the librarian.

The seriousness of the crime does not matter, recall if you will the recent discussion on LISNews about a police request for computers in the case involving the abduction and murder of a child in Vermont.

Either patron information (and even library staff recollection of that information) is exempt from disclosure or it is not.

If we wish to follow the code set by the ALA, if it were a child molester that I recognized by name surfing the internet, I could take no action as I recognized that name solely because it was on his library card or in his patron record.

We cannot have it both ways. Either you can turn in criminals because of something you know or see, or you can't because you know or see it because of your employment in the library.

You can't have it both ways

You can't have it both ways either. If she happened to sit down at the computer after he used it and noticed something that had his name, is that fair game? You claim that research on public computers isn't confidential. My entire point was to say that she had extra information that was independent of his patron record: the car in the parking lot. It didn't necessarily belong to the patron she thought she saw, but was enough to call the cops and simply say that the car was there. She didn't just go on her recollection of the patron and his name; she gathered something that anyone else could have.

So simply knowing someone's name is confidential? I don't know about you, but I simply can't remember what patrons I only know from their records, who actually introduced themselves, or who I knew outside of the library before they were patrons. Are we as library workers just supposed to assume every single thing we know or remember is confidential or is it all fair game? You can't have it both ways.

Apparently, yes

You say :
Are we as library workers just supposed to assume every single thing we know or remember is confidential...

If it is library related and you only learned it during your course of employment at the library, then yes.

If you worked at a physician's office, knew a patient only because you worked there, and then one day saw that patient in the grocery store whacking someone over the head with a pipe, would you tell the cops who it was because you learned their name through their medical records?

Of course you would, so would I, but there is such a great dichotomy in what the library community feels about patron records that some will condem you for it - think of the librarian who called the police on the hijackers, and some will laud you for it.

I am one of the latter.

She could have just as

She could have just as easily known who he was from something else.
Maybe he was a member of her church? Maybe his wife was a friend of hers?
Maybe their kids went to the same school?
Maybe he was on the sex-offenders list and he was 'known' for that reason (not saying he is/was just using it as an example)

More ways of knowing someone name in any field without having to know it from patron records.


Those are all wonderful, but the story does not support those.

You can make up as many hypotheticals as you wish, but they do not change the facts. Until such time as we know for certain that she knew him for any reason than because of his libary patronage, and it seems to be the case that that was her exclusive knowledge, then she violated one of the ALA tenents by using patron record information without consent.

Columbo, MLS

From the article,

Jen Saunders was reading about the tragic hit-and-run on the Mercury News Web site just before 10 a.m. when she realized that last week she had talked with the wanted man - Cecil Cox, 66. Astonished, she looked around the library and thought she saw him again.

She turned away for a moment but didn't see him when she looked back. That's when she ran downstairs to the library garage with the car description and license plate number in hand. And there it was - the 1994 silver Infiniti that witnesses say struck and killed Oralia Puga Ramirez, 73, and Enedina Oliva, 70, on Saturday night.

She saw his picture on the newspaper's web site, recognized him and, believing he was still in the building checked for his car and that's about it.

But, if Judith Krug kidnapped a Cuban librarian and took him to the San Francisco PL and made him look at child porn and then abducted a teenager and then brainwashed her with radical Islamist teachings ... well, who's to say what happened?

I hereby extend my hand to you that you avoid injury while getting off your high horse.

Why did she mention his name

Then why did she mention his name at all. Your scenario gives more credence to my supposition that she used library records to find his name.

If she simply recognized the picture from the webpage and went to look for the car the librarian would not have made the statement about recognizing his name.

The remainder of your post is simply you being a putz.

"then she violated one of

"then she violated one of the ALA tenents by using patron record information without consent."

And this suddenly matters to you, why?


It does not matter to me at all, I think the ALA is an impotent organization filled with self absorbed leftist whackjobs.

However it seems in this case the librarian used library records to identify or at a minimum assist in the identification of an alleged criminal. If it is OK now, why is it not OK in other instances?

Why was it not OK to give the name of a suspected criminal when a man threatened to assault a child outside the library?

Why could library records - if you insist that public computers are indeed library records- not be used to assist police when a terroristic threat was made against Brandeis University from a library computer?

Why was it not OK to look at library records - again public computer browsing history and logs - when a young girl was abducted and murdered in Vermont?

Why is it OK in this case? Why was it OK for Kathleen Hensmen to call the cops when she recognized some of the 9/11 terrorist murderers as previous library patrons?

Either you can use information about patrons discovered or collected during the course of library employment, or you can't. Is it only OK if you run over old people, or blow up planes, but not OK if you murder children?

Librarians want to have their cake and eat it too.

I would have dropped a dime on the guy in a second even if I had to read his name off his library card. If you are a criminal you can't get me to help you hide. Man up and face your arrest.

It's a library not a sanctuary

Karen Saunders found the murder weapon in the parking garage. The police came and took it and a murder suspect away. Let justice take care of the rest. Thank you, Karen Saunders, for standing up and doing the morally right thing.

She did a wondeful job

You have hit the nail right on the head. Karen Saunders did the morally right thing.

I completely agree with you. I hope I would have been astute enough to think to go to the car park, and I believe that I would have done the same thing by turning in the accused. If one considers librarianship a vocation of public service, certainly helping to apprehend accused killers is a most noble public service.

What my comments are about is the hypocrisy of the library community as a whole. Why are some uses of information gained in the practice of one's profession as a librarian noble, and others that achieve the same goal of public safety and security verboten?

Why can a librarian use what she remembers from working in the library and serving the patron, but forbid the cops to examine a public computer in a public building without jumping through hoops?

There is so much more to this story: Librarian vs Cox

The news stories have it about 75% right. Spoke to Karen about the entire truth and you woud be laughing at your silly debates over right/wrong, good/evil. Get a grip group. She did the right thing morally. It is over. Thank god Cox isn't driving /sleeping on my streets, especially considering the agitated state he was in that week...enough already. He now has a home, food, and a shower.

So what 75%

If you spoke to the librarian who dropped the dime what is the full story. You say the stories are 75% true, spill the beans what is correct and what is not.

I hold that helping capture accused criminals = good.

News on Karen and Cox only 75% correct--a few details

Karen wants this all behind her after she realized so much gets twisted in the media and the telling and re telling of the story. One detail I believe she will let me mention would be that she was not spending her morning reading the SJ Mercury News Website! Goodness...she is head librarian and far too busy. Many staff downstairs recognized him (Cox) and did check the site. When the site had a photo match, they did a printout and brought it to Karen. They asked not to be identified. All of them remembered him from the week before due to an incident that was both confrontational on his part and one you wouldn't forget if you were nearby. I am not to reveal any more here. Even The reporter was polite enough to respect that. Hope this helps. 34 yr fan of Karen and her family

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