Privacy and Confidentiality in the Cornell University Library

The Cornell University Library believes strongly in protecting the privacy of all who use its services, in person and online. This includes library patron's right to read anonymously. Consequently, Library staff members hold in confidence to the extent allowable by law all information about individual Library users and their choices of research or study material. Please help the Library protect your friends' and colleagues' right to privacy, and your right, by not asking staff members for this kind of information.

New York State law (NY CPLR § 4509) protects the confidentiality of library records including, but not limited to, the circulation of library materials, database searches, interlibrary loan transactions, reference queries, requests for photocopies of library materials, reserve requests, and the use of audiovisual materials, films, and sound recordings. Such records are to be confidential and can only be disclosed with the user’s consent or in response to a subpoena, court order, or other legal requirement. Library patrons should be aware that Federal legislation (USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, The USA Freedom Act) have expanded the circumstances under which a federal agent may request patron records held by the Library; if such records are requested by federal authorities, the Library is prohibited by law from notifying the patron of that request. The Library forwards any law enforcement requests for patron records to the Office of the University Counsel in accordance with University Policy 4.13, Acceptance of Legal Papers.

To safeguard your privacy, the Library has in place procedures that minimize instances of the retention of Library records.  In addition, the Library follows relevant Cornell policies, including University Policy 4.5, Access to Student Information, University Policy 4.12, Data Stewardship and Custodianship, University Policy 4.13, Acceptance of Legal Papers, and University Policy 5.9, Privacy of Information Technology Data.

Information on how the Library implements the policy outlined above is found in our description of Library practices on the collection, use, disclosure, maintenance and protection of personally-identifiable information.