The following information has been gathered from staff of the Iowa Sex Offender Registry, city attorney letters and discussions among Iowa public library directors.
Please consider this to be legal information, not legal advice — the
application of law to an individual’s specific circumstances. You
should consult a lawyer if you want professional assurance that the
information, and your interpretation of it, is accurate.
Where can I find a copy of the law?
Iowa Senate File 340 was passed in the 2009 legislative session
and signed by the governor on May 21, 2009. It became effective on
July 1st, 2009. You can find the law through the Iowa Legislature Web site, https://www.legis.iowa.gov/index.aspx. On the left side of the page is a search box labeled
""Iowa Code Quick Search" Just type '692A' (no space or
punctuation) into this box and click on "Go."
Sections of particular interest to public libraries:
Section 1(17)(19)(22) - DEFINITIONS.
Section 13(1)(f) and (g) - EXCLUSION ZONES AND PROHIBITION OF CERTAIN EMPLOYMENT-RELATED ACTIVITIES.
Section 13(2)(a) and (c)
Section 23 - IMMUNITY FOR GOOD FAITH CONDUCT.
What does the law say about sex offenders and public libraries?
The law states that a sex offender convicted of a sex offense against a minor shall:
• Not be present upon the real property of a public library without the written permission of the library administrator.
• Not loiter within three hundred feet of the real property boundary of a public library.
• Not be employed by or volunteer for a public library.
Should the library have a policy?
Yes. You should work with your board to develop a policy on
when and when not the library administrator (director) will grant
permission to an offender to be in the library. You are not required
to ever grant permission, but whether or not you do, it should be in
accordance with your written policy. Review your personnel and
volunteer policies and decide whether you will require job applicants
and volunteers (including board members) to have a background check
before working for or volunteering for the library. See sample policies.
I’m concerned that libraries are not included in the immunity section of the law.
While libraries are not included in the immunity section of the
law, one city attorney has said “you are not particularly susceptible
to liability when acting reasonably.”
What obligations does the library have regarding the new sex offender law?
The obligation to seek and receive permission to use the library
or to be on library property rests with the sex offender. If you have
reason to believe that an offender is on library property without your
permission, the police should be called.
Should the library contact sex offenders about the new law? (this section added 7/31/09)
Based on a conversation with a staff member of Iowa's sex
offender registry, no, the public library does not need to take
responsibility for notifying registered sex offenders of the law and/or
your library's policy. Sex offenders are being informed of the new law
by the sex offender registry staff. If sex offenders want to use a
public library, they are being told to go to the library administrator,
identify themselves as a sex offender and ask what the library's policy
is. Leave it up to the sex offender to contact you
What action should the library take?
• Consult with your city attorney.
• Adopt a policy
regarding the sex offender law. The policy should address: if or when
written permission will be granted to an offender (against a minor) to
come onto library property; whether you will provide some way for the
sex offender to access library materials, such as sending materials
with a relative or some other method.
• Inform staff on when
to call the police. (To enable their staff to identify offenders, some
libraries have created a list, with physical descriptions and
photographs, of offenders against minors residing within their county.
See the State Sex Offender website, www.iowasexoffender.com)
• Communicate with staff so they know if the director has given permission for an offender to be on library property.
Review your personnel and volunteer policies and decide whether you
will require job applicants and volunteers (including board members) to
have a background check before working or volunteering for the library.
More on policies (added 10/22/09)
The Iowa Department of Public Safety is the agency responsible for
the Sex Offender Registry. According to Ross Loder, legislative
liaison with the department, we should be focusing on the definition of
a sex offender in terms of the Iowa Sex Offender Registry... "Sex
offender" means a person who is required to be registered under this
His point was that if a person is convicted, his or her status as
"convicted" would remain forever. However, that same person could be
required to be registered for only 10 years, in which case, after the
10 years, he would not be subject to the exclusion zones. He also made
the point that some sex offenders who are required to be registered
don't comply and so are not in the registry. However they are still
subject to the exclusion zones because they are "a person who is
required to be registered under this chapter."
For clarity, we should probably be saying something like:
The Iowa Code, section 692A prohibits a sex offender (defined as a
person who is required to be registered in the Iowa Sex Offender
Registry) and who has been convicted of a sex offense against a minor
from being present upon the real property of a public library without
the written permission of the library administrator, nor to loiter
within three hundred feet of the real property boundary of a public
And, we should probably consistently use the phrase: "sex offender
(defined as a person who is required to be registered in the Iowa Sex
Offender Registry) and who has been convicted of a sex offense against
a minor" throughout the policy."