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Privacy Policy [June 2011]


Last Updated: 5/25/11

I.  Introduction

The New York Public Library ("NYPL" or the "Library") is committed to protecting the privacy of our patrons, customers, donors, and friends (collectively referred to below as NYPL's "users").  We believe that privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thoughts and free association, and we have created this Privacy Policy so that you can learn what the Library does with your information.  (This policy covers information that is collected online as well as offline.)  By using NYPL's services, including its website, and by communicating with NYPL, you agree to be bound by the terms of this Privacy Policy.  This policy may change from time to time, and we encourage you to check it periodically.

II.  Library Records

A.  The Library protects its users' privacy by keeping information about materials they check out and information they access confidential, as required by law.  In New York, the confidentiality of library records is governed by New York CPLR 4509, which reads as follows:

Library records, which contain names or other personally identifying details regarding the users of public, free association, school, college and university libraries and library systems of this state, including but not limited to records related to the circulation of library materials, computer database searches, interlibrary loan transactions, reference queries, requests for photocopies of library materials, title reserve requests, or the use of audio-visual materials, films or records, shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed except that such records may be disclosed to the extent necessary for the proper operation of such library and shall be disclosed upon request or consent of the user or pursuant to subpoena, court order or where otherwise required by statute.

All users are advised that any library record or other information collected by the Library as described herein is subject to disclosure pursuant to subpoena, court order, or as otherwise authorized by applicable law. 

B.  The information collected and retained by the Library varies, depending on the context: 

1. Circulating Materials Checked Out With Standard NYPL Library Cards Issued to Individuals and Organizations.  The information provided in this paragraph covers standard transactions by borrowers of NYPL's circulating materials with traditional NYPL library cards.  When you check out a book, video, DVD, CD, game or any other item from NYPL's circulating collections, we keep an electronic record of that transaction.  If the item in question is returned on time, the electronic record for that transaction is deleted from our integrated library system.  Except as set forth below, if the item is returned after the due date and the fine is paid when it is returned, the electronic record for that transaction is also deleted from our integrated library system. If an item is returned after the due date and the fine associated with that item is not paid when the item is returned, then we keep a record of that transaction until the fine in question is paid.  As a precaution, we also keep a record of information contained in our integrated library system on back-up files that are stored off site.  These files are purged on a rolling basis so that only four weeks of transaction history is kept at any given time.  Please note that some of the Library's services and programs, such as Summer Reading and, beginning June 2011, the collaborative features available through the Library's new online public access catalog, may allow you to make information about materials borrowed or otherwise used by you available publicly.  If you use these services, please read the description of the services carefully, so that you are aware of the extent to which information about these materials will be stored and made available for other users to see.  More information about the use of user information in connection with the collaborative features mentioned above may be obtained by clicking here.

2. Circulating Materials Checked Out With New York Educator Borrower Cards.  In 2010, the Library began issuing Educator Cards as part of a new program designed to track the use of Library materials by teachers and schools in New York City.  As part of this program, NYPL plans to collect more data about the materials checked out with these Educator Cards than it does with our traditional library cards.  For example, NYPL may collect and retain information about the titles and types of materials checked out with these cards in order to help NYPL improve its allocation of resources and in order to allow various governmental agencies to track the use of materials in New York City's schools.  Information related to materials checked out with these cards may be kept on a long-term basis and may be shared with third parties.

3. Special Collections / Research Materials.  When a user accesses non-circulating materials from one of NYPL's research libraries, we generally keep a record of that transaction in our files, even after the item in question has been returned.  These records are kept because many of the items in our special collections are fragile or rare or are governed by agreements we have with third parties who have made these materials available to us (such as the videos in our Theatre on Film and Tape Archive.) 

4. Automated Searches.  The WebPAC interface of NYPL's integrated library system allows any user who would like to save certain search queries to our database the ability to do so through our preferred searching service.  This service sends the user in question information about new materials that meet the search criteria established by that user.  Users may also use the online catalogue to save lists of materials they have read on a personalized saved title list page.  The information saved in the preferred searching service as well as on the personalized saved title list page is only accessible to the user who has signed up for the service in question.

5. Research Queries.  NYPL often receives requests for research assistance by phone, email, or through other channels.  The way this information is handled varies, depending on the division that receives the request.  For example, "Ask NYPL" keeps a database of questions and answers, often in anonymized form, in order to answer future questions more efficiently.  Other divisions, such as NYPL Express or our branch libraries, may keep a record of each question and answer.

6. Use of NYPL E-Resources.  Some e-resources available via NYPL's website are designed to gather information from users for certain purposes like finding jobs.  These e-resources retain users' personal information, and users are encouraged to read the privacy policy of the company that provides the service in question to learn more about how this information might be used.  In all other instances, information about the use of our e-resources is only kept on an aggregate (i.e., non-personally identifiable) basis.

7. Inter-Library Loan Requests.  NYPL offers our users access to materials owned by other libraries if those materials are not contained in our collections.  We make these materials available through an online application called ILLiad, supported by OCLC Online Computer Library Center ("OCLC").  All inter-library loan requests are placed through this application, either directly by the individual making the request or by an NYPL staff member who creates an account on behalf of the user.  This account keeps a record of the requests made.  Information in these accounts is available, on a confidential basis, to NYPL as well as to OCLC.

8. Use of NYPL Computers.   While NYPL does not keep personally-identifiable records of user searches on our computers, we do keep a log of internet activity for all NYPL computers and other devices using our networks (i.e., we keep a record of URLs accessed from each of our IP addresses).   This information is retained in order to compile monthly usage statistics.  Information related to reserving time on our computers through our online reservation system is generally purged from our records each night.

9. Participation in NYPL Classes and Programs.  NYPL retains information about users' participation in our classes.  How we use this information depends on the class in question.  For example, in cases where we provide a class, like English Classes for Speakers of Other Languages, through a service provider, we may share user information with the instructor/service provider.  In cases where we receive funding for classes from outside sources, which is also the case with our English Classes for Speakers of Other Languages, we are often required to share information about the participants with the entities that have provided funding for the classes (in the case of English Classes for Speakers of Other Languages, the NY State Department of Education and the Mayor's Office).  In cases where users sign a release in order to participate in a class (like a yoga class), we will keep this release in our files, in accordance with our policies.

10. Materials Obtained From Partner Institutions Through the Manhattan Research Libraries Initiative Program.  Certain NYPL users whose research needs would be better met by being able to use the collections of other libraries in the City may, in certain instances, be able to avail themselves of those resources through the "Manhattan Research Libraries Initiative Program."  (More information about this program can be obtained here.  Users who use the services of libraries with whom NYPL has a collaborative relationship should read the privacy policy of those other libraries in order to determine what information about these transactions is gathered and how that information is used. 

III.  Use of Information in Connection with Other Programs, Services and Activities

The Library compiles aggregate demographic data related to our users to better manage our services and to provide aggregate information to potential funders of the Library's programs.  In addition, like other similar organizations, the Library collects certain personally-identifiable information about our patrons, customers, donors, and friends for purposes related to our mission.  For example, information is obtained from online transactions such as purchases, registrations, or contributions as well as responses to our e-newsletters and email communications.  (In order to help us to better tailor our services and offerings, NYPL collects limited information about user click-throughs, in connection with our e-newsletters and certain email communications.)  This information may be used to send you information about various programs and services offered by NYPL as well as other NYPL initiatives and information.  Should you ever wish to stop receiving any particular type of communication, please either click the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email you received or contact the appropriate office by using these email addresses.

As is customary in the non-profit world, NYPL will sometimes send people who have expressed interest in the Library's programs or services requests to support the Library.  In order to ensure the most efficient use of NYPL's fundraising dollars, we use third party vendors to make sure the contact information we have for our users is current and to determine which users are most likely to provide support.  Information about our donors is never sold or rented to other organizations, though sometimes we exchange donor names and postal addresses with other non-profits.  These names are shared for use on a one-time, non-retainable basis.  Online donors are given a chance to opt out of this exchange when they fill out the online donation form, and all donors may call the Development Office at 212-930-0653 (or send an email to to have their preferences in this regard updated.

IV.  Updating Your Information and Preferences

Users who would like to update information and preferences in connection with Library newsletters, mailing lists, and databases should refer to this list for contact information. In all instances, users can stop receiving e-communications sent by the Library by clicking on the "Unsubscribe" link at the bottom of each such email.  Cardholders who would like to update their telephone numbers and email addresses online may do so through NYPL's integrated library system.

V.  Third-Party Partners

The Library has teamed up with reputable third-party partners in order to provide certain services to its users. The information you submit to the Library may be provided to those third parties on a confidential basis so that they can assist us in providing certain services, including the collaborative features of NYPL's online public access catalog, English Classes for Speakers of Other Languages and activities that require us to maintain databases and/or process credit card transactions and donations.  In cases where users leave the Library's website to visit one of its partners' websites, users are encouraged to become familiar with the privacy policies of the websites they visit.  Users who use the Library's new online public access catalog are encouraged to read the BiblioCommons privacy policy [LINK TO BIBLIO PRIVACY POLICY] as well as this privacy overview.

VI.  Security

The Library has physical, electronic, and managerial measures in place to prevent unauthorized access to the information we collect.

VII.  Cookies

Cookies are commonly used to provide useful features to website users.  A cookie is a small text file that is sent to your browser from a website and stored on your computer's hard drive. Cookies cannot read data from your hard disk or read cookie files that were created by other websites—the website that creates a cookie is the only one that a browser will permit to access it.  The cookie itself does not contain any personally identifiable information, but may be used to tell when your computer has accessed NYPL's website.  Examples of ways in which the Library might use cookies include customizing content areas or analyzing site activity.  Some electronic services offered by NYPL, such as the library catalog and remote databases, place temporary cookies for current sessions.

If you are concerned about the use of cookies, we suggest that you set your browser's options to notify you whenever a cookie is set or to disallow cookies altogether. You should be aware, however, that prohibiting the use of cookies may restrict your access to certain types of content or features.

VIII.  Children's Privacy

The Library is very concerned about the issue of children's privacy.  We ask all children who access services from our website or from websites affiliated with NYPL (such as On-Lion: For Kids,, and to limit the amount of personal information they provide, and to read the safety tips that we provide in conjunction with our online activities for children.   We encourage all parents and guardians to learn about their children's online activities and to participate in their children's exploration of the internet.  We also encourage parents and guardians to tell their children about the importance of: (i) not revealing personal information online and (ii) asking for permission before providing their last name or contact information to any website, or before purchasing any products or services online.  For further information, please visit the following pages:

Right of Parents/Guardians to Access Information About Children:  Please note that: (i) the parent or guardian of a user who is 11 years old or younger may be able to access information about materials currently checked out by his/her child, and (ii) the parent or guardian of a user who is between the ages of 12 and 18 may be able to access information about his/her child's overdue materials.  Please visit the Library Card Terms and Conditions for more information.

Summer Reading:  Participants in NYPL's Summer Reading program should be aware that information that is provided by participants may be accessible by teachers at various NYC schools.  In addition, certain participants in the Summer Reading program may be invited to attend special events (e.g., events for students who have read the most books, etc.)  Personal information of these participants may be shared with non-NYPL entities in connection with such invitations and events.