Ask a Librarian Privacy Information

Information

We do not require any personal or contact information to initiate a chat session. However, the librarian may ask for your telephone number, e-mail address, or UNI so that he or she can call or e-mail you in order to best work on more complex questions. The librarian may also ask whether or not you are affiliated with Columbia University in order to identify the most appropriate resources to answer your question; many of our databases are licensed for use only by affiliates.

Answering Your Question

We often work in a collaborative fashion with our colleagues in the Columbia University Libraries, and your question may be best answered by a librarian other than the one that originally received your chat. Your question may be forwarded to a subject specialist librarian better able to provide a good answer. Your contact information will be sent along with your question so that you can be contacted in the most timely manner.

Most evenings during the Fall and Spring semesters (generally 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Sundays) our chat services are staffed by library school interns from accredited Master's degree programs that include Queens College, Pratt Institute, and the Palmer School at C.W. Post. All interns and librarians participating in this program respect your privacy.

Stored Information

Chat transcripts are stored securely on our chat provider's servers and may also be downloaded to secure storage on the library's servers. We access these transcripts to evaluate the quality of our service as well as for statistical purposes. We are occasionally contacted by researchers in the academic community who are interested in reading our chat interactions. We consider these requests on a case-by-case basis, but in all cases, any identifying patron information is stripped away before the data is provided to the researcher. We do not provide transcripts to any other entities.

Please send comments and questions to the User Engagement Committee (

Use of Ask a Librarian services is limited to Columbia University faculty, students, staff, and alumni; and to those with questions specific to the Columbia University Libraries, the use of its collections, and its policies. If you’re not affiliated with Columbia University, please direct your query to your local public, state, or academic library.