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Privacy Policy

Fenway Library Organization Patron Privacy Statement
The Fenway Library Organization (FLO) is a consortium of 21 full member and affiliate member academic libraries. Full Member Libraries share an automated library system. This shared system allows patrons (library users) to search the collections of all FLO libraries in a single search, making a broad range of materials easily available to patrons at each member library. The Full member system maintains a shared patron database which allows patrons to easily borrow from any of the member libraries. Therefore, patron information is available at all full member institutions and the FLO office.

In light of this, and in response to the USA PATRIOT Act, this document describes what patron information is kept by the FLO system.

Summary of USA PATRIOT Act:

"The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 ("USA Patriot Act") became law on October 26, 2001...expand[ing] the authority of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and law enforcement to gain access to business records, medical records, educational records and library records, including stored electronic data and communications."

Section 215 of this law:
  • allows the FBI to obtain search warrants for library circulation records and Internet use records
  • does not require the FBI to show probable cause that the information being sought is evidence of a crime
  • prohibits librarians from disclosing to the library patron that the FBI has requested or been given information about him/her.

This information was adapted from "The USA Patriot Act in the Library," American Library Association. [Last accessed 7/9/2013]

Patrons should be aware of the following:

Patron Records

The patron record includes basic information such as:
  • Address, phone number, e-mail address, and identification number
  • Materials currently checked out
  • Current and historical fines and fees

The following information could be linked to the patron record:
  • Materials requested online from other libraries
  • Items saved on the "bookshelf" via the online catalog
  • Saved searches

Note: patron records do not include social security numbers.

The library automation system is configured to erase links between patron records and library materials (e.g. a book), no later than one week (7 days) after the material has been returned. If, however, the patron's record accrues fines or fees, the library automation system maintains the link between the patron record and the material indefinitely. In other words, if the patron returns library materials on time and in good condition, there is no record of which materials were checked out after one week. If, on the other hand, materials are returned late, damaged, or not at all, the library patron record will always be linked to these materials.

Search Terms

To improve searching, librarians may analyze search terms entered by patrons stored in the FLO system. These search terms will be linked to an IP address.

Policies within the Consortium

The American Library Association's statement on core values asserts, "protecting user privacy and confidentiality is necessary for intellectual freedom and fundamental to the ethics and practice of librarianship.” [Last accessed 7/9/2013]

In keeping with this statement each library within FLO is committed to maintaining the confidentiality of patron information, however actual privacy policies vary from library to library. See individual libraries' websites or consult library directors for specific privacy policies.

[Approved by the Fenway Libraries Online Board of Directors on June 22, 2010]