How does WCLS use and secure student data?
Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) places a high value on the security and privacy of our patrons’ information, especially the patrons who are also young people.
Although WCLS is a government entity, the records it keeps regarding patrons and borrowing behavior are exempt from the State’s Public Records Act and will not be disclosed in response to general requests. Anyone with further questions may refer to the official WCLS Confidentiality of Patron Records Policy which includes more details.
WCLS never shares information about patrons under the age of 18 with any third party, with two exceptions:
- WCLS works in partnership with Bellingham Public Library (BPL) in order to provide library services to everyone in Whatcom County. WCLS patrons may use BPL locations and collections, and vice versa. To facilitate the partnership, we share a catalog and can view each others’ patron records.
- WCLS contracts with reputable vendors to provide library services like the online catalog or the eBook and eAudiobook collection. WCLS shares some patron information with these vendors, and that information is protected under the vendors’ security and privacy policies. WCLS does not contract with any 3rd party vendor without vetting their security and privacy policies.
The WCLS IT team uses information security best practices to ensure that WCLS networks, systems and data are up-to-date and protected against online threats. IT Services keeps any WCLS retention of system-related patron data to a minimum, only keeping what is necessary for as short a time as possible, for troubleshooting and statistical purposes.
Through the ConnectED program, WCLS requests that schools provide the following information for students who wish to participate, and it uses the information as follows:
|Student ID (aka lunch number)||WCLS uses the student ID as a library card number. The idea is to use a number the student knows rather than ask them to remember a long new library card number or carry a physical card with them.|
|Name (First, Last)||The WCLS database requires a first and last name.|
|Date of Birth||The WCLS database requires a date of birth. Library staff sometimes use the information when patrons with common names ask questions about their account. By verifying the date of birth, staff can be sure that they have looked up the correct library account.|
|Student Address||The WCLS database requires an address, but it is only used as a backup to email or phone notification. For example, if the system sends an email notification that a book is overdue and that email bounces twice in two days, the system then sends a paper notification.|
|School||WCLS uses school-specific information in annual statistics to see how well the ConnectED program is doing school by school.|
|Grade||WCLS sometimes uses student grades in annual statistics to evaluate how well the ConnectED program is working for different grades.|
|Family email (or phone number)||The WCLS database requires a way to notify patrons about almost overdue and overdue items, requests that have become available to check out, and more. Email is the preferred method of notification, but if a family does not use email, notifications can be set up for a phone number.|
Families with questions about how the library uses ConnectED data are welcome to contact us.