UCB Libraries


Confidentiality of Library Records

The confidentiality of library records (including checkouts, reference questions, etc) is protected by Colorado State and Federal Law. CU Boulder Libraries faculty and staff are also committed to the privacy principles outlined in the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics.


In certain instances, however, we may be compelled to divulge library records, as required by law.


The following types of library information are considered confidential:

  • Circulation records
  • Reference questions
  • Database search records (including “preferred searches”)
  • Personal information (address, phone number, etc)
  • Interlibrary loan transactions
  • Use of materials, equipment, & facilities (e.g. study rooms)
  • Financial information (library fines, lost books, etc)
  • Acquisitions Requests

The following types of library information are NOT considered confidential:

  • Whether or not you have been in the library.
  • Information overheard by persons not employed by the Libraries.
  • Your conversations within the library.

Q & A

Circulation issues: checkouts

Q: Can anyone get a list of what I have checked out right now?

A: Not without proper legal action.


Q: What if I want someone to have a list of my checkouts?

A: You may print a  list of your checkouts for whatever purpose you choose. Go to the Chinook On-line Catalog at http://libraries.colorado.edu/,
click "My Chinook" to access your library account (authentication


Q: Can I get a list of what I have checked out in the past?

A: Not unless you activate My Reading History.  The link between patron and book is erased shortly after checkin, unless you choose to "opt in" to the My Reading History feature.


Q: I pay all bills for my son/daughter, who is a student at CU Boulder. Can I get a list of what he/she has checked out?  What if the items are billed to me—I shouldn’t have to pay for something when I don’t know what it is!

A: We cannot give you a list of checkouts without written permission from the library cardholder.


Q: Can I have someone check out books for me, on my account?

A: In general, no. We do have a “proxy” arrangement for University of Colorado Boulder faculty only, in which a paid assistant may check out items for the professor. We do not accept notes authorizing someone (e.g. spouse, friend, colleague, etc) to check out books for you. If a special arrangement needs to be made due to unusual conditions such as illness, please contact the desk supervisor at the appropriate library.


Q: Who has access to my library account?

A:  The card holder with proper ID. Staff members acting within the scope of their duties.


 Q: I know I can access my library record through My Chinook. What kind of protections are in place to keep that information confidential?

 A: Transmission of data across the library network is secure. Your circulation record is accessible only by entering Identikey/Password and/or PIN code (which is encrypted).

Q: Do you use Social Security numbers in library records?

A: Effective July 1, 2005, the Libraries no longer uses Social Security numbers as identification numbers for patrons.

Circulation issues: recalls and holds

Q: Can you tell me who has put a recall or hold on my book?

A: No, we cannot divulge that information.


Q: Can you tell me who has a book that I want?  It’s probably someone in my department and I’m sure they’ll share with me.

A: No, we cannot divulge that information.

Circulation issues: course reserves

Q: Will you tell a professor if I have a reserve item checked out and it is overdue?

A: Yes, if the item is overdue and the professor requests that information. This is not a confidentiality issue, as all members of the class are assumed to be reading the materials in question.


Q: Will you tell a professor which reserve items I checked out for his/her course?

A: No. Even if we wished to divulge that information, the link between patron and reserve item is broken as soon as the item has been returned.

Circulation issues: notices


Q: The library uses my email address to send me overdue/recall/etc notices. Will you give my email address to outside parties?

A: No.

Circulation issues: fines and bills

Q: Who has access to information on the authors and/or titles of book fines and bills for lost books?

A: -- The card holder with proper ID.

     -- Staff members acting within the scope of their duties.


Q: How long is information on my library fines and/or lost books kept?

A: We are required by State and University regulations to keep for 3 years all information on charges that have been paid. Information on unpaid fines or lost books must be kept for three years beyond the point at which the charges have been paid.

Reference and Internet issues

Q: If I email the library with a reference question will it be kept confidential?

A: Yes.


Q: If I use the library’s “virtual reference” service, are my questions kept confidential?

A: Yes.


Q: What about reference questions that are asked in person or over the phone?

A: There is no paper or computer “hard copy” of these questions. Sometimes our librarians do make note of interesting or difficult reference questions as training tools or in case similar questions are asked in the future, but no information is maintained regarding the patrons who asked the questions.


Q: In the Rare Books room and University Archives, I have been required to fill out a paper form in order to request materials. Is this information retained?

A: Yes. Both reader registration cards and call slips (written requests to page material from the closed department stacks) are retained indefinitely. Only authorized department personnel may review this information for library related purposes. Law enforcement personnel following procedures outlined in state and federal law could also gain access to this information.


Q: Who has access to my list of “preferred searches” in My Chinook?

A:  Anyone you allow to access your library record through My Chinook in the Chinook online catalog. Thus it is important that you not divulge your Identikey/Password and/or PIN code to anyone.


Q: Can anyone find out which webpages I have been visiting at library computers?

A: Hard-wired (as opposed to wireless) computers within the library do not require that an individual authenticate him or herself before use. Therefore, the websites you have visited are not linked to you. It is possible, however, though perhaps not likely, that law enforcement officials on the premises could monitor the web-surfing habits of an individual in a public area of the library.

Wireless computers within the library may only connect to the network through use of identikey. Thus there is a means by which web-surfing habits might be monitored online, although the library does not track or store such information.

Miscellaneous issues

Q: How does the U.S.A. Patriot Act affect my privacy?

A: Representatives of any local, state or federal government with a valid subpoena or search warrant had the ability to obtain your records even before passage of the U.S.A. Patriot Act. The U.S.A. Patriot Act, however, has “lowered the bar” for what evidence law enforcement officials are required to present in order to obtain a subpoena or search warrant. In certain instances, the U.S.A. Patriot Act also prohibits library employees from informing you or any other entity that federal agents have obtained records about you.

Some Disclaimers

  • The Libraries’ on-line catalog, Chinook, contains links to many websites and licensed databases that are not maintained by the University of Colorado, Boulder Libraries. The University Libraries is not responsible for the privacy policies and/or practices of these individuals or companies.
  • It is possible, though perhaps not likely, that emails containing confidential information could be accessed by law enforcement officials with the proper paperwork. You should consult the policy statements of the University Information Technology Services, and/or your email service (if not through CU Boulder).
  • Our software vendor also has access to the Chinook database, but is contractually bound not to reveal any information related to our patrons’ library-related activities.

Please direct questions about this page to Collections and Services.



American Library Association's Code of Ethics


52.4 Confidentiality of Library Records


The ethical responsibilities of librarians, as well as statutes in most states and the District of Columbia, protect the privacy of library users. Confidentiality extends to "information sought or received, and materials consulted, borrowed, acquired," and includes database search records, reference interviews, circulation records, interlibrary loan records, and other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities, or services.


The American Library Association recognizes that law enforcement agencies and officers may occasionally believe that library records contain information which may be helpful to the investigation of criminal activity. 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: the issuance of a court order, following a showing of good cause based on specific facts, by a court of competent jurisdiction.


The American Library Association strongly recommends that the responsible officers of each library, cooperative system, and consortium in the United States:

Formally adopt a policy which specifically recognizes its circulation records and other records identifying the names of library users with specific materials to be confidential.


Advise all librarians and library employees that such records shall 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.


Resist the issuance or enforcement of any such process, order, or subpoena until such time as a proper showing of good cause has been made in a court of competent jurisdiction.

From ALA Policy manual: http://www.ala.org/aboutala/governance/policymanual/updatedpolicymanual/tableofcontents