Public libraries’ use of patron information
Learn about the rules on how libraries may use the personal information in patron records.
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The personal information that public libraries collect about their patrons falls under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA).
The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport does not provide legal advice and this page is meant as a general overview. If you have questions about your particular circumstances, you must consult with your own legal advisors.
Learn more about personal information and MFIPPA.
How libraries may use personal information
The personal information of patrons may only be used for:
- the purpose for which it was originally obtained or compiled
- a consistent purpose
Using personal information for other purposes (for example, fundraising, launching a new reader's advisory service) is not permitted by MFIPPA.
For example, using a patron’s personal information for fundraising could be a “new purpose” if the patron didn’t provide their information specifically to allow the museum to contact them as part of a fundraising campaign.
The use of a patron's personal information for fundraising would not be permitted unless that use could have been reasonably expected when the personal information was collected.
Before using personal information for fundraising purposes, libraries need to carefully evaluate whether patrons could reasonably expect their personal information to be used for fundraising purposes on the basis of the written information they received when their personal information was originally collected.
Similarly, if a library wanted to use a patron's personal information for a new type of service, such as a new reader's advisory service, the library's use of the personal information for that new service would need to be consistent with the purpose for which the personal information was originally obtained or compiled.
Use patron information for a new purpose
If a library wants to use the personal information of patrons for a new purpose, the library must acquire and retain the patron’s written consent to use the personal information for that purpose.
This consent should state:
- the name of the patron
- the particular personal information to be used
- the use or uses for which consent is given
- the date of the consent
- the institution to which consent is given
Where a library does not retain a paper copy of the patron's signed consent, we recommend that that the library retain some record which demonstrates that written consent was received.
- Consistent purpose
- A purpose is a “consistent purpose” only if the individual from whom the information was directly collected might reasonably have expected such a use of the information.
- New purpose
- A ”new purpose” would be a purpose that is not already included in, or consistent with, the purpose for which the information was initially collected.
- Personal information
- Library patron personal information is information about the patron and includes, but is not limited to:
- the patron's name
- telephone number
- email address
- reading preferences
- record of materials borrowed
- program attendance