Privacy and Confidentiality

Massachusetts Privacy and Confidentiality Law

The Somerville Public Library is dedicated to protecting the privacy and confidentiality of its patrons in the use of its library resources.  Our confidentiality policy complies with Massachusetts General Laws Annotated Chapter 78, section 7, entitled “Public Libraries: Establishment by cities and towns, records” which states, in part, as follows:

“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 as defined by clause twenty-six of section seven of chapter four.”

Although at times it may seem inconvenient, these practices protect your privacy and confidentiality. We appreciate your understanding, and are happy to answer any questions concerning your account in person or by phone with your library card or library card number.

What Does This Law Mean?

This law extends to circulation records (borrowing records, registration records, reserves or fine records), information sought or received, materials consulted, interlibrary loan transactions, registration records, database search records, reference interviews, or any other personally identifiable uses of library materials, facilities or services of its patrons.  In accordance with this law, the Somerville Public Library will not disclose or make available any circulation information, registration information, or information retrieval records in response to any inquiry except

  1. To the cardholder (with library card or proper id).This applies regardless of age or relationship, and staff is therefore restricted from disclosing information to the parents of minors when the minor has their own library card;
  2. To persons authorized by the cardholder to access the individual’s records by providing such persons with their physical library card or the card’s barcode scanned into their cell phone;
  3. By library authorities acting within the scope of their duties for the purpose of interlibrary cooperation and coordination as authorized by M.G.L. c. 78, section 7; or
  4. To representatives of any local, state, or federal government, pursuant to subpoena, order 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, order or search warrant, the library administration will consult with legal counsel to determine if it is proper to release the requested confidential information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. I am returning library materials for a family member/friend. Can you tell me what is left on the card?


A. Only if you have their card in hand or scanned into your cell phone.  Without a library card, we cannot disclose any information about the account.


Q. I do not have my family member/friend’s card, but they have items out that need to be renewed.  Can you renew them for me?


A. Yes, providing you have the item(s) in hand, we will renew them without accessing the patron’s information.


Q. Can I pick up my family member/friend’s reserve?


A. Only if you have their card in hand or scanned into your cell phone. Without the card, our staff is unable to give you the reserve.  It does not matter if you know what the item is (i.e., its title, the author, or subject).


Q. My children’s borrowing is my responsibility.  Can’t you let me have access to their accounts?


A. Only if you have their card in hand or scanned into your cell phone.  Once a child has been issued their own card, the account information is confidential regardless of age or relationship.


A library card number and password are all that is necessary to access your library account.  If you do not have a password, you can establish one online, or ask to create one the next time you are at the library.