Skip to main content

Privacy Guidelines for Electronic Resources Vendors

Issue Date


Libraries license electronic information on behalf of their patrons and customers.  Access to most of the electronic resources available to libraries is provided through the world-wide web by means of browser-based interfaces.  The rapid evolution of the world-wide web as a major information delivery mechanism has made the web a rich source of information for companies about the interests, behavior, and habits of web users.  It is sometimes the case that this type of information is gathered during the use of a web-based product without the knowledge or permission of the individual who is using the product.

A cardinal principle of librarianship is that the privacy of the library users with respect to their information seeking is to be protected, and the members of the ICOLC are committed to this principle.  Accordingly, the ICOLC issues these guidelines with respect to the privacy interests of our member libraries’ users in the interest of informing the companies with which we do business about what is acceptable in the products and services that we license.

The ICOLC recognizes the rapid evolution in web-based services and welcomes dialogue with web publishers on the development of policies and practices that protect the privacy of the users of web-based products.



1. Privacy of users

PUBLISHER respects the privacy of the users of its products.  Accordingly, PUBLISHER will not disclose information about any individual user of its products (hereinafter referred to as “personal information”), including information about the specific content of a user’s searches, to a third party without the permission of that individual user, except as required by law.

2. Authorized use protected

PUBLISHER will not deny an authorized user access to its product on account of that user’s election not to permit distribution of personal information to a third party.

3. Privacy Policy Statement

The PUBLISHER will post a privacy policy statement on its online site.  The privacy policy statement should be easy to find, easy to use and comprehensible.  An example of an acceptable statement is:


    <PUBLISHER'S name> is committed to protecting user privacy online.  We believe that strong electronic privacy is crucial for the ongoing success of the Internet.  We also believe it is critical for us to adhere to the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics.  We pledge to give you as much control as possible over your personal information.  We will not disclose individually-identifiable information about you to any third party without your consent.

4.   Responsibility

PUBLISHER will maintain full control over its site to prevent any violation of the privacy policy by a third party, such as an advertiser or ISP.

5. Monitoring

PUBLISHER will review regularly the functioning of its web site to insure that its privacy policy is enforced and effective.

6. Control of authorized use of products

Nothing in these guidelines is intended to interfere with a PUBLISHER’s right to enforce license terms concerning which users are authorized to use its products.  It is understood and accepted that owners of licensed web products may need to transmit information such as an ip address or a user id to a third party as part of the mechanism by which the owner limits use of its product to authorized users.  These guidelines do not prohibit such transmission.

Endorsing Organizations

This statement was adopted in principle by member representatives of the “International Coalition of Library Consortia” (ICOLC) whose institutions are listed below.  This statement does not necessarily represent the official views of each consortium listed.   All consortia listed are in the United States unless otherwise noted.

Consortia whose member representatives adopted this statement:

As of July 12, 2002

The Alberta Library
ACA Central Library
Amigos Library Services
AULC (Arizona Universities Library Consortium)
ASERL (Association of Southeastern Research Libraries)
Bibliographical Center for Research (BCR)
British Columbia Electronic Library Network
CALICO (South Africa)
California Digital Library
California State University - SEIR (Systemwide Electronic Information Resources)
Canadian National Site Licensing Project
Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL)
CBUC-Consorci de Biblioteques Universitàries de Catalunya / Consortium of Academic Libraries of Catalonia
Chesapeake Information & Research Library Alliance (CIRLA)
CIC Center for Library Initiatives
College Center for Library Automation (CCLA)
Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries
Colorado State Library
Council of Atlantic University Libraries
Council of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries (COPPUL)
Conference of Rectors and Principals of Universities of Quebec (CREPUQ)
Danish Electronic Research Library (DEF)
Florida Center for Library Automation
GAELIC (Gauteng and Environs Library Consortium)
Greater Western Library Alliance
HEAL-Link (HEllenic Academic Libraries Link) (Greece)
Illinois Digital Academic Library (IDAL)
JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) (UK)
JULAC (Hong Hong)
Kentucky Virtual Library
MALMAD - Israel Center for Digital Information Services
Maine Info Net Consortium
Michigan Library Consortium
MINITEX Library Information Network
MOBIUS:Linking Missouri's Academic Libraries
NAAL (Network of Alabama Academic Libraries)
Nashville Area Library Alliance (NALA)
NC LIVE  (North Carolina Libraries for Virtual Education)
NEOS Library Consortium
NERL (NorthEast Research Libraries Consortium)
Nevada Council of Academic Libraries
New England Law Library Consortium (NELLCO)
Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL)
SOLINET (Southeastern Library Network)
Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium (UK)
Triangle Research Libraries Network (TRLN)
University Library Advisory Council of the University of North Carolina System
University of Texas System Digital Library
Utah Academic Library Consortium
VIVA (The Virtual Library of Virginia)
WiLS (Wisconsin Library Services)
WRLC (Washington Research Library Consortium)


The International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) is an informal, self-organized group currently comprising approximately 200 library consortia in North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa. The member consortia serve all types and sizes of libraries. ICOLC has been in existence since 1996.

ICOLC supports participating consortia by facilitating discussion on issues of common interest. Twice per year ICOLC conducts meetings dedicated to keeping participating consortia informed about new electronic information resources, pricing practices of electronic information providers and vendors, and other issues of importance to directors, governing boards, and libaries of consortia. From time to time ICOLC also issues statements regarding topics which affect libraries and library consortia.