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Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association. Harris County Public Library (“HCPL” or “the Library” herein) is committed to protecting your privacy, whether you are a user, visitor, and/or donor. This Privacy Policy explains what information we collect from you and why. By using our website, downloading our mobile applications, visiting a Library location, or donating to us, you agree to this policy. You also agree to let us use your email and postal address to communicate with you about our programs, services, fundraising efforts, and more. While Texas State law requires that we treat as confidential information about materials you check out and information you access, we also do so because it is in keeping with our commitment to you to protect your privacy.

This Privacy Policy may change from time to time by posting such changes to our website, so we encourage you to check back periodically for updates. We will alert you to material changes that have been made by placing a notice on our website, by sending you an email and/or by some other means.

These are the rules and guidelines for the use of your information by the library

Frequently Asked Questions: Privacy Policy

What information does HCPL collect?

We collect information about you in three ways:  directly from you, from automatically-collected network logs, and through cookies. We typically keep information only for so long as it is needed for the proper operation of the Library and in order to better deliver Library services to you.   We may retain some information in backup storage systems, hard copy form, or as required by law. We collect different types of information from you depending on your chosen level of engagement with our Library services and the information needed in order to provide you with access to those services. 

1. User-Provided Information.  When you register for an HCPL library card or user account for our Library services, we may ask you to share certain information with us. If you register with us, we offer you the opportunity to review and, when practical, to update, change or delete some information you have provided us.  You can do this by logging into your registered user account or you can ask our staff to assist you by phone by calling any HCPL branch location, or by visiting a Library location and speaking to our staff. If you deactivate your registered user account, you may not be able to continue using certain Library services that require registration. The following are examples of information that you might be asked to provide to us:

  • Personal Information: any information that can personally identify you, such as your name, physical address, email address, phone number, Library barcode, Personal Identification Number associated with your library account, payment information, and other similar information.
  • Residency Verification: information such as driver’s license, other government-issued identification, and utility bills containing a postal address.
  • Shared Content: includes anything created by you that you choose to make public by using our Library services. Your registered user account and any information you have chosen to display may accompany your shared content. 
  • Social Media Information: includes the option of using your social media accounts and posting content on our social media pages, our crowdsourcing sites, or elsewhere on the Internet, and such information you allow to be shared with us.
  • Login Credentials: includes username, password, and a set of personal questions about you and are provided as part of the process to create an online user account which allows you to view your Library Records at any time by logging into your account.
  • Library Record: contains your Personal Information related to your personal use of circulating and non-circulating Library materials, including but not limited to computer database searches, interlibrary loan transactions, reference queries, e-mails, faxes, requests for photocopies of Library materials, title reserve requests, and the use of audio-visual materials such as films and music. 

We are committed to keeping such information, outlined in all the examples above, only as long as needed in order to provide Library services.

2. Information HCPL Automatically Collects. When you use our Library services, such as our website and mobile applications, our computer servers automatically capture and save information electronically about your usage of our Library services. Examples of information that we may collect include:

  • Your Internet Protocol (IP)  address
  • Your location
  • Kind of web browser or electronic device that you use
  • Date and time of your visit
  • Website that you visited immediately before arriving at our website
  • Pages that you viewed on our website
  • Certain searches/queries that you conducted

If you are using a Library device, we may also record your Library barcode, time and length of your session, and the websites that you visited.  If you are using our public Wi-Fi network, we may, in addition, also collect the MAC address and name of your Wi-Fi device.

3. Cookies.  A cookie is a small data file sent from your web browser to a web server and stored on your electronic device’s hard drive.  They are generated by websites to provide users with a personalized and often simplified online experience. You have the option of disabling such cookies if you choose not to allow their use. If you prefer, you can usually remove or reject browser cookies through the settings on your browser or device. Most web browsers are set to accept cookies by default. Keep in mind, though, that removing or rejecting cookies could affect the availability and functionality of our Library services.

You should be aware that information collected about you through any of the above means may be de-identified and aggregated with information collected about other users, visitors or donors.  This de-identified and aggregated information cannot be used to reasonably identify you.  This information helps us to administer services, analyze usage, provide security and identify new users of our Library services.  In addition, it helps us to improve your user experience.

How does HCPL use the information collected?

Depending on the Library services you choose to use, the following are some examples of the ways we use your information in order to provide those services to you. You always have the option of whether or not to provide the information being used for such services.

  • We use Personal Information and Residency Verification to issue Library cards. If a user chooses to provide an email address, HCPL may use it to send account alerts and other communications. We use Library Records to assist in maintaining our collections and to verify records of users’ paid and unpaid fines.
  • We use Shared Content, Login Credentials, Social Media Information and Library Records, as allowed by you and in accordance with the preferences you have established, to deliver enhanced or personalized services.
  • We use Personal Information, Login Credentials, and Residency Verification to provide access to e-books through our mobile applications.
  • We use Personal Information when collecting or processing payments, and fines.
  • We use Personal Information and Social Media Information to administer promotions, surveys, and contests.
  • We use Personal Information and Social Media Information to provide opportunities to further engage with the Library through advocacy and fundraising campaigns.
  • We use cookies to collect information about your activity, browser, and device in order to provide you Library services. Cookies are used by us to remind us of who you are and help you navigate our website when you visit.  Cookies also allow us to save your preferences so you do not have to reenter this information each time you use our Library services. You have the option of disabling cookies by using the settings on your web browser.

How do I manage information that HCPL has collected about me?

You can manage most information within your registered user account online at or you can ask our staff to assist you by phone by calling any HCPL branch location, by using the contact for at Ask a Librarian, or by visiting a Library location and speaking to our staff.  Our information storage systems are configured in a way that helps us to protect information from accidental or malicious destruction.  To that purpose, the information we collect is also saved in backup storage systems.  Therefore, any update, change or deletion you make to your information or preferences may not immediately be reflected in all copies of the information we have and may not be removed from our backup storage systems until overwritten.

When does HCPL share information?

These are the ways HCPL shares your information with third-parties:

1. When You Share Content with the HCPL Community. If you choose to share content through our online services, the Shared Content may be publicly accessible.  If you do not want to share content publicly, you can use your privacy settings to limit sharing.  You may delete some content that you shared, but some interactive shared content may persist in association with your registered user account, even after your account is terminated.  Therefore, you should keep this in mind when participating in shared content activity through our Library services.

2. Third-Party Library Services Providers.  We use third-party library service providers and technologies to help deliver some of our services to you.  If and when you choose to use such services, we may share your information with these third parties, but only as necessary for them to provide services to HCPL.  We may also display links to third-party services or content. By following links, you may be providing information (including, but not limited to Personal Information) directly to a third party, to us, or to both. You acknowledge and agree that HCPL is not responsible for how those third parties collect or use your information.  Third parties must either agree to adhere to strict confidentiality obligations in a way that is consistent with this Privacy Policy and the agreements we enter into with them or we require them to post their own privacy policy.  We encourage you to review the privacy policies of every third-party website or service that you visit or use, including those third parties with whom you interact with through our Library services.

3. Fundraising and Marketing Outreach.  As is customary in the non-profit world, we may send requests to support the Library to people who have expressed interest in the Library's programs or services.  In order to ensure the most efficient use of our resources, we use third-party vendors to make sure the contact information we have for our users is current and to determine which users are most likely to provide support.  We do not rent or sell your Personal Information but we do share names and postal addresses with other nonprofit cultural organizations.  Sharing this information with other reputable charitable organizations is the most cost-effective way to find new users, share program offerings, and identify new donors  We may also use information collected about you to work with third-party marketing vendors to show you ads on third-party websites about Library services. We may also use your information to improve our marketing outreach by working with third-party vendors to build models to identify and reach new users online based on them displaying similar online behavior to our existing users. You can easily opt-out of such use of your information by (a) clicking the 'unsubscribe' link at the bottom of any marketing or communications e-mail you receive from us.

4. Legal Requests.  Sometimes the law requires us to share your information, such as if we receive a valid subpoena, warrant, or court order.  We may share your information if our careful review leads us to believe that the law, including state privacy law applicable to Library Records, requires us to do so.

5. Funders and Other Contributors.    We are able to offer our users optional programs and services that we would not otherwise be able to provide without the generous support of funders and contributors.  These funds are often dependent on HCPL complying with the reporting requirements of the funder or contributor.  If you participate in these optional programs and services, your information may be included in these reports. When appropriate and practical, we will identify the name of funders and contributors associated with our programs and services and information we may share with them in the registration materials. 

How does HCPL collect and share children’s information?

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) regulates online collection of information from children under the age of 13. If you are under the age of 13, you may not be allowed to use our online services without your parent’s or guardian’s permission, especially when your personal information may be collected. Parents and guardians of children under the age of 13 may view their children’s Library Records. Parents and guardians of children between the ages of 13 and 17 (inclusive) may also view their children’s Library Records, but require their children’s consent.  We may partner with third-party services to provide educational content for children. Parents and guardians should review those services’ privacy policies before permitting their children to use them. Parents and guardians may also need to sign additional consent forms for the collection of information about their children before they gain access to optional programs and services, such as our enrolled programs.  


Adapted from Privacy Policy of New York Public Library