Patron Privacy Policy

The Boston Public Library is committed to user confidentiality. The confidentiality of library records is a core part of library ethics and the Boston Public Library follows the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association, opens a new window.

Confidentiality and your library record

Under the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 78, Section 7 “That part of the records of a public library which reveals the identity and intellectual pursuits of a person using such library shall not be a public record…”

Confidentiality extends to information sought or received, and materials consulted, borrowed, and includes database search records, reference interviews, circulation records, interlibrary loan transactions, registration records, and all other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities, or services.

Circulation, registration information, and information retrieval records may not be disclosed except to:

  1. The cardholder (with card or other proper id). NOTE: This is regardless of age or relationship. For example, parents cannot be told what materials a child has checked out without the child’s consent.
  2. Staff of Metro-Boston Library Network members acting within the scope of their duties in the administration of the library system and in facilitating interlibrary loans.
  3. Persons authorized by the cardholder to access the individual's records identified by a signed note of permission given by the cardholder.
  4. Representatives of any local, state, or federal government, pursuant to subpoena or search warrant authorized under the authority of federal, state, or local law relating to civil, criminal, or investigative power. Upon receipt of any such subpoena or search warrant, the Library President will consult with legal counsel to determine if the subpoena or search warrant is in proper form and if there is a valid basis for its issuance before providing confidential information.

The Library occasionally conducts promotional campaigns to inform the community of our services. The Library at those times use patron email or postal address for the library's internal mailing lists.

The Library does not sell, lease, or otherwise distribute or disclose patron name, email address, postal address, telephone number, or other personal information to outside parties.

Confidentiality and Our Website

When patrons visit the BPL website, the library collects and stores only information to measure the number of visitors to different areas of the site to assist in making the site more useful to you. The information includes:

  • the address (IP) of the patron's computer or Internet provider
  • the date and time the patron accessed our site
  • the pages that are accessed and how patrons navigate the site
  • the Internet address of the web site that referred the patron to the Library's site

Web site data is separate from individual library account data. The Library cannot look up patron library records to determine what web sites were visited.The BPL also offers a wireless network that allows patrons to connect to the Internet at any of BPL's locations. Please be aware that data accessed and sent over the BPL's wireless network is not encrypted.

Forms and email

If a patron initiates a reference inquiry, PIN form or subscribes to the Library's newsletter on the BPL web site, this information is considered as part of the borrower account and protected as outlined above.

Online suggestions and other general email to the library which do not apply to borrowing or intellectual pursuits may be considered public records as per Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 66, Section 10.

If patrons leave the BPL site

The BPL web site contains links to external web sites not maintained by the Boston Public Library. The Library cannot be responsible for user privacy when visiting outside web sites, including the BPL online store which is contracted to an outside vendor. Please consult the privacy policies of those web sites should there be questions regarding their use.

Date Approved: March 23, 2004

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