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Virtual Reference Privacy Guidelines

Temple University Libraries respects the rights and privacy of our patrons and their records in accordance with the following institutional and professional policies and state law: 

Temple University Libraries understands "patron records" to include all records with identifying information about patrons, including the contextual information in transcripts of reference interactions.

What information is collected in reference interactions?

Email, chat, and text transcripts, as well as user email and IP addresses, are logged by a third-party vendor, Springshare. All transcripts are password protected, for view only by designated library staff. These transcripts are restricted for the purposes of internal training, statistical reporting, and may at times be repurposed, once stripped of any identifying information, in our FAQ knowledge-base.

Please note that we may collect the names and email addresses of users contacting us through the chat widgets on the library’s web pages. Any chats occurring through commercial instant message (IM) providers (AIM, Google, Windows Live, Yahoo!) may be logged by those companies. For more information, review the privacy policy of your IM account provider.

For those who wish to chat anonymously

If you wish to chat anonymously you may use the Ask Here PA service

What is the information used for?

The transcripts are analyzed for the amount and types of questions we are being asked. This helps determine appropriate staffing levels and aids in training librarians to staff the reference service. Frequently asked questions may be at times be mined and repurposed in order to populate the FAQ knowledge-base, but no identifying information is made public.

Who has access to this information?

The information collected by the library and Springshare is accessible to Temple Libraries' librarians, staff, and administrators who need it in the course of their work.

Does the library share the information?

Statistics generated from chats, emails, and texts may be used for official reports or publications of Temple University Libraries. However, information about specific individuals (e.g. IP address, email address, name, phone number, etc.) will never be shared outside of the Temple University Libraries except as may be required by law.

What choices do users have about the collection, use, and distribution of their information?

Any patron may request to have their chat, email, or text transcript deleted by contacting the Libraries’ Learning and Research Services department. Users will need to provide their name, email address, or phone number, along with the date and approximate time of their transaction in order to help identify the correct transcript for deletion.

Get Help

Contact Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian for Learning and Research Services, at bells@temple.edu or 215-204-5023.