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Library privacy policy

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Your right to privacy

The Mount Holyoke College Library is committed to protecting your right to privacy regarding the questions you ask and the materials you borrow. Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought and free association. In alignment with the American Library Association, we consider the right to privacy to be the right to open inquiry without having the subject of your interest examined or scrutinized by others. Confidentiality exists when we are in possession of personally identifiable information about you and we keep that information private on your behalf.

Our commitment to privacy and confidentiality

Protecting your privacy is important to us. Our commitment to your privacy and confidentiality has deep roots in not only U.S. law but also the ethics and practices of librarianship. This notice explains our information practices, what information we collect in the Library and how we use that information.

All records relating to your use of the Library and its resources are confidential. These records may be consulted and used by staff and student workers in the course of carrying out library operations but will not be disclosed to others except upon your request and with your consent or pursuant to subpoena, court order or as otherwise required by law.

Information collected and its uses

Borrowing of Physical Materials

A registration record exists for you in the Five College integrated library system* and in related systems, such as reserves and interlibrary loan. We receive personal information from the Registrar’s Office (for students) and Human Resources (for employees) in order to create and update the library accounts for people affiliated with Mount Holyoke College. We input local borrower data directly. This registration record contains your:

  • name,
  • addresses (both home and on campus),
  • email address,
  • phone numbers (both home and on campus),
  • bar code (from your identification card),
  • MHC ID (from your identification card),
  • class year (for students) and
  • department (for faculty and staff).

This information is used only for library circulation purposes. When you borrow materials, we scan the barcode on your identification card and then link your personally identifiable information to the items borrowed. For each item checked out to you, we maintain the following information:

  • item-specific details, such as the author, title, call number and barcode number,
  • the date charged, loan period and date due,
  • the number of renewals and date of the last renewal, and
  • fines and fees associated with late returns and lost items.

Staff or students working at the Mount Holyoke College Library will NOT disclose the following:

  • the name of any person who has a particular item checked out (nor will we describe them in any other way),
  • the titles that are checked out to a particular person or
  • any personal information (address, phone number, email, etc.).

Staff or students MAY:

  • disclose the due date of a particular item,
  • recall any checked out item and
  • In extreme cases where there has been clear abuse of borrowing privileges, we may also disclose your information to the appropriate Deans as honor code violations (for students), the Dean of Faculty and/or Human Resources (for faculty and staff), and/or Public Safety and Service (for faculty, staff, students or other borrowers).

Your registration record is retained for the period of time that you have borrowing privileges with us and as long as is needed to resolve billing disputes or other operational issues.

* Mount Holyoke College Library participates in the Five Colleges Consortium and shares an integrated library system with Amherst College, Hampshire College, Smith College and UMASS Amherst. This relationship enables us to provide essential library services, including circulating library materials, enabling you to borrow materials from other consortium libraries, providing access to shared subscription databases, and delivering shared library services. In order to provide these services, it is necessary that all of the campuses have access to the Mount Holyoke College community’s registration information. Please see the other Five College privacy policies, in addition to ours.

Use of Archives and Special Collections

Upon your first in-person research visit to Archives and Special Collections, you will be required to complete a paper registration form that includes your name, mailing address, phone number, email address and a brief description of your research project. The Archives and Special Collections staff retains these completed forms in the researcher files permanently. In addition, staff maintain the following information in a “Reference Request and Reading Room Visits” spreadsheet:

  • date(s) of visit(s), email(s), phone call(s) and letters(s) received and
  • collections consulted.

Staff or students working in Archives and Special Collections will NOT:

  • disclose personal information of any person (address, phone number, email, etc.) without the person’s permission indicated on the registration form or
  • identify a person who has used a particular item or collection without the person’s permission indicated on the registration form.

Staff working in Archives and Special Collections MAY

  • disclose, with explicit permission and contact information indicated on the registration form, a person’s area of research interest and contact information with another person who has a similar research interest.

Internet Privacy

When you visit the Library’s website, we collect and store only information to measure the number of visitors to different areas of the site to assist us in making the site more useful to you. The Library’s practices for collection and use of this data are in accordance with the Mount Holyoke College Digital Privacy Statement.

We will not sell, lease or otherwise distribute or disclose your email address, phone number, borrower records or other personal information for non-Library purposes to outside parties unless required by law.

The Library’s website contains links to other sites. We are not responsible for the privacy practices of other sites, which may be different from the privacy practices described in this policy. We encourage you to become familiar with privacy practices of other sites you visit.

Ebooks, Ejournals and Databases

The Mount Holyoke College Library licenses and/or purchases content and services on your behalf from third-party vendors, including (but not limited to) discovery systems, databases, electronic books and electronic journals. We make every attempt to ensure privacy protections in license agreements with third parties. Nevertheless, because the use of these websites and resources is not governed by this Mount Holyoke privacy policy, we strongly recommend that you review the privacy policies of the websites that you visit, particularly if you are requesting online help through email or chat or establishing your own account for specialized services such as table of contents, email, saved search alerts, purchases or personalization features.

We may require you to authenticate yourself as a member of the Mount Holyoke College community before connecting you to content and services contractually provided by third-party vendors. We only release information to those third parties that authenticate you as an authorized user.

To ensure that we are complying with license agreements and and to keep these services available to the community, the Mount Holyoke College Library uses software that logs traffic related to the download of content from contractual partners. Unauthorized attempts to download content is strictly prohibited and may be punishable under the law. Except for the above purposes, no other attempts are made to identify individuals or their usage habits.

Email Help

Email to individual library staff and departmental email addresses (such as or collect email address in order to reply to the inquiry. Staff enter statistical information on what type of question was asked, by what type of person, if known (e.g., student, faculty, staff, alumna or visitor), when and who responded. The email addresses are not systematically deleted but are used only to answer your questions, not for any kind of analysis or tracking of individuals.

Access to the Physical Building

In general, the Library does not ask any person to identify themselves for access to physical spaces during normal business hours. The complex is restricted to the Mount Holyoke community after midnight through use of the OneCard. The OneCard system does track entrance information for buildings on campus when you swipe in. Please contact the Technology Help Desk for details on OneCard policies.

Accessing your own information

You are entitled to view your library account information at any time and to amend incorrect personal information.

  • If you are a student, you can correct personal information in your registration record via the Registrar’s Office.
  • If you are an employee, you can correct personal information in your registration record via Human Resources.
  • If you are an alum or a local borrower who has Mount Holyoke College borrowing privileges and who shows proper identification, you can correct personal information in your registration record at the Library’s Circulation Desk.
  • To see what you have currently checked out, please log in to your main library account through the Discover advanced search page.

Government requests for library records

The Mount Holyoke College Library recognizes that law enforcement agencies and officers may occasionally believe that library records contain information that may be helpful to the investigation of criminal activity. All Library staff and student workers refer law enforcement inquiries to the Chief Information Office and Executive Director. If there is a reasonable basis to believe such records are necessary to the progress of an investigation or prosecution, the American judicial system provides the mechanism for seeking release of such confidential records. Library records will not be made available to any agency of state, federal or local government except pursuant to such process, order or subpoena as may be authorized under the authority of, and pursuant to, federal, state or local law relating to civil, criminal or administrative discovery procedures or legislative investigatory power.

Concerns about this privacy policy or its implementation

If you have questions, concerns or complaints about our handling of your privacy and confidentiality rights, please email We will respond in a timely manner to review your concerns in light of our policies and procedures.

Further information regarding privacy issues from the American Library Association

The Library encourages you to explore the ALA web site for more information on library practices.