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About the Library - Privacy & Confidentiality Policy
Privacy & Confidentiality Policy

Newton Free Library is dedicated to protecting the privacy and confidentiality of our patrons. Our policy complies with the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 78, Section 7 (1994 edition): “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-sixth of section seven of chapter four.” This policy extends to circulation records (borrowing records, registration records, reserves or fine records), interlibrary loan transactions, registration records, database search records and reference interviews. Except in cases involving the USA Patriot Act, no records can be made available to any inquiries, governmental or otherwise, unless a subpoena has been served by a court of competent jurisdiction and the library administration has consulted with legal counsel to determine if it is proper to release the requested information,

Our staff must support this policy of privacy and confidentiality. Not only is it the law, but it is the library’s long commitment to protecting the patron’s right to access information freely. In accordance with the law, the policy restricts our staff from disclosing information with the cardholder’s family or friends. This applies to the release of information to the parents’ of minors when the minor has their own library card. The Supervisor of the Public Records of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Carolyn Kelly MacWilliam, stated in May 1997, “A public library may not disclose records which reveal a minor’s borrowing information to the minor’s parent, regardless of whether the parent is paying the fine on an overdue item or the parent has signed the child’s library card application form.”

At times our commitment to confidentiality may be an inconvenience. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated by the staff as by everyone who is protected by these laws.

How does this affect your library visit? Please read our frequently asked questions and answers and see!

Q. I am returning these library materials for my family member/friend. Can you tell me what is left on the card?
A. No, without a library card we cannot disclose any information about the account.

Q. I am returning these overdue library materials for my family member/friend. Can I pay the fine?
A. Yes, you can pay the fine on library materials you have in hand; but all other information related to the library card account is confidential.

Q. I know my family member/friend has fines on his/her account, can I pay off his/her fines?
A. No, even though it may be a nice gesture, one’s library card account is confidential.

Q. I do not have my family member/friend’s card but s/he has items out that need to be renewed. Can you renew them for me?
A. No, all transactions related to one’s account are confidential.

Q. Can I pick-up my family member/friend’s reserve?
A. Only if you have his/her card or reserve notice in hand. Without the notice or 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).

The following items cannot be used to pick-up a family member/friend’s reserve:

  • A note of permission
  • A phone call of permission
  • A library card number written on a piece of paper or memorized by heart
  • Another book checked out on the account the reserve is placed on

The reserve pick-up notice grants permission only for that specific item printed. All other inquiries about the account cannot be discussed.

Q. My Child is under the age of 18, don’t I have the right to know the information related to his/her account?
A. No. One’s card is confidential regardless of age or relationship.

Q. My spouse and I share everything, s/he would not mind if we had use of the same account. Please let me manage the account.
A. No. One’s card is confidential regardless of age or relationship.

Q. I forgot my library card. Will I be able to pick up my reserved book, take out library materials or manage my account?
A. Yes, as long as you have identification with a picture and current address, we can access your account. We strongly encourage you to always use your library card. We understand that on occasion one may misplace their library card. In that case we can access account with proper ID. In the event we suffer from computer problems we cannot manage your account with ID. The easiest and most efficient way our staff can serve you is with your library card.

Q. Can I renew library materials over the phone without my library card?
A. Once again, the easiest and most efficient way our staff can serve you is with your library card. We can renew each library item with its barcode number found on the book or on the receipt. But without the library card number we cannot disclose any other information about the account.

One can always manage their account online. A library card number and its Personal Identification Number (PIN) is all that is necessary to access an account. If you do not have a PIN yet, you can establish one online or ask to create one at any circulation desk next time you are at the library. We cannot assign you a PIN over the phone but we can answer any questions concerning your account as long as you have your library card number in hand.


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330 Homer Street, Newton, MA 02459 • (617) 796-1360 • TTY: (617) 552-7154
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