Policies & Procedures

This Service is Available To:

  • Currently enrolled students of American University
  • Members of the faculty and staff of American University
  • Individuals requesting information about resources unique to American University

In order to evaluate the service we may examine the content of our interaction with you for questions and answers. This information is used to help analyze the amount and types of questions we are being asked, help determine staffing levels, and help retain librarians and staff for the service. This information will be used anonymously. All identifying information will be removed from the message before we perform transcript evaluations.

Please Note: The University Library and University IT do not provide technical support for Instant Messaging software.

What is covered by copyright?

How can I use copyrighted materials in class?

Using your work - whose copyright is it?

Making your work accessible to others

Sources for permissions

Requests from outside AU

Requests to film or photograph inside the library for commercial or media purposes, or from anyone not currently attending or working at AU must be directed to the University Communications & Marketing office at 202-885-5950. If approved, the Library will be notified. Requests by current American University students, staff, and faculty must be approved by the Library Administration. Only requests conforming to the guidelines below will be considered.

Use of Library Space

The primary purpose and use of Library space is to support academic study and research, and the Library therefore maintains an environment free of unnecessary distraction. Filming projects are permitted as long as they do not interfere with this mission.


  • Must not disrupt student study and research, or the work of Library personnel
  • Must comply with all American University policies and procedures
  • Must not obstruct any doorways, exits, or stairways
  • Should be scheduled during the morning or other low-usage times
  • Will not be approved during midterms or final

Those filming, photographing or videotaping in the Library must:

  • Complete the request form at least 24 hours in advance
  • Receive a signed copy of the approved request form from authorized personnel
  • Check in at the Information Desk upon arrival
  • Provide all necessary personnel, supplies, and equipment
  • Supervise project equipment. The Library will not store equipment and is not responsible for loss of or damage to equipment.
  • Leave the property and space used in as good condition as when they arrived.
  • Obtain written permission from anyone filmed or photographed, and submit a copy of the permission forms to the Information Desk
  • Conform to American University copyright policy and United States copyright law if filming or photographing American University materials

The Library will work with the requester to find a mutually agreeable arrangement and location; however, final approval rests with the University Librarian or her designee. Decisions will be relayed to the requester and to the Library Information Desk. Though permission may be granted, the Library reserves the right to terminate any project at its own discretion.

Acknowledgements and Questions

The Library appreciates appropriate acknowledgement in film, video, and photography credits; e.g., photo courtesy of the American University Library. Questions may be directed to the Library's Director of Strategy and Communications (202-885-3225), the Director of Administrative Services (202-885-3234), the Building Coordinator (202-885-2710), or full-time Building Operations Specialists (202-885-3232).

Revised August 2016

  • Library users may have drinks throughout the library, excluding Archives and the Archives Reading Room, so long as the drink containers have lids. For the purposes of this policy, cans are considered to have a built-in lid.
  • Individual snack food may be consumed in most areas of the Library. All other food of individual proportions may be consumed in the Mud Box cafe room.
  • Certain areas of the Library do not allow any food, in the interest of protecting equipment or materials. No food is permitted in computer areas, Media Services, and the Mac Lab.
  • Examples of permitted snack food: candy, bagels, fruit, and granola bars.
  • Examples of food allowed only in the Mud Box café: pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches, fries, ice cream, and salads.
  • Groups or individuals may not accept food orders inside the Library.
  • Groups or individuals may not host organized or impromptu meals or snack sessions in the Library.
  • The Library asks that anyone who consumes food in the building discard their trash in the proper container and clean their area before leaving.

Collaborative Workrooms (Group Study Rooms) on the Lower Level, First Floor, Second Floor, Third Floor are available for reservation by current American University students. Collaborative workrooms B54 and B55 are located in the Graduate Research Center and are available for reservation by graduate students only.

  • Collaborative workrooms are only to be used by groups of two (2) or more.
  • Groups may reserve a room for up to three hours in a 24-hour period.
  • Rooms must be reserved at least one hour in advance, or up to a maximum of one week in advance.
  • Excessive noise is prohibited. Speaking is permitted at a conversational volume.
  • Phone and video calls are not permitted in the study rooms.
  • Individuals that are waiting for their group to arrive must wait outside the room.
  • If a group is late by 15 minutes or more, their reservation is forfeited, and the room becomes available to the next group to arrive.
  • Groups without a reservation must yield the room if a group with a reservation arrives for their booking.
  • Collaborative Workrooms are NOT to be used for office hours or tutoring sessions – please use EMS to reserve a library classroom in these cases.
  • Individuals that violate CW policies up to three (3) times may be barred from reserving CWs for the remainder of the semester.

AU Library maintains a charitable lost and found located at the Information Desk. However, it is important to note that at no point can the library assume responsibility for items turned in to the lost and found.

If you have lost an item please inquire at the Information Desk. Unclaimed items are held for 10 days. After 10 days, unclaimed valuables are taken to Public Safety. Other items are subject to disposal. American University IDs are taken to the One Card Office in MGC. Food and drink are promptly discarded.

Personal books are held at the Borrowing Desk for one week. After this time period, books are subject to consideration for the collection.

Library staff may ask users for their ID card or other identifying information to verify ownership.

Mark your personal belongings with identifying information so that the University can contact you about items in the lost and found. If you think you have lost something, contact the Library (202-885-3232) or Public Safety (202-885-2527) immediately to ensure that any of your items in the lost and found can be returned to you.

The library is intended to be a quiet study area for patrons. Throughout the building, visitors should not speak above a reasonable indoor speaking volume. All students and visitors are asked to be respectful and be considerate of others at all times. Each floor has designated noise level:

  • Lower Level - Moderate Noise: low volume talking and group work are permitted
  • First Floor - Moderate Noise: low volume talking and group work are permitted
  • Second Floor - Silent: no talking permitted; individual study permitted
  • Third Floor - Quiet: whispering and individual study permitted
  • There are group study rooms available on the Lower Level and First Floor where moderate noise is permitted. Those on the Second and Third floors are for quiet study only.
  • The Mud Box Café does not have restrictions on noise.
  • Ear plugs are available at the Information Desk. If you observe a noise policy violation, please contact the Information Desk at (202) 885-3232.

All phones must have ringers turned off while in the Library. Phone conversations may only be conducted in the following locations:

  • First Floor Vestibule and Lower Level Lobby
  • Lower Level Front Stairwell
  • Rear Stairwells
  • Mud Box and Print Center

Text messaging is not restricted. Internet phone services (VOIP) are considered equivalent to a cell phone and therefore use is restricted to the above locations. On a case by case basis, exceptions can be made for academic purposes. Please see the Information Desk for more information. Cell phone use is not permitted in the Music Library.

American University Library licenses a variety of electronic resources (e-journals, e-books, databases) from information vendors and scholarly publishers on behalf of the AU Community. The agreements that govern use of AU Library's e-resource collections are subject to U.S. Copyright Law as well as the contractual terms in the license which stipulate access, use and reproduction by AU's community of users, commonly referred to as "authorized users".

If these license terms are violated, information vendors and scholarly publishers have the right, per the contractual terms, to temporarily suspend access for a specific user or the entire AU community of users. In some cases, access can be permanently revoked. It is important that all AU authorized users abide by Copyright Law and the contractual terms found in license agreements to ensure interruptions in access to the e-resource collections do not occur.

Here are some general rights and responsibilities governing the use of the electronic resource collections:

Usually Allowed

  • Making limited print copies or digital downloads of electronic material (e.g. single e-journal articles or e-book chapters). The number of pages that can be copied or downloaded varies by vendor.
  • Accessing and using electronic material for personal, teaching and research needs
  • Sharing electronic material with other authorized users
  • Hyper-linking to electronic material
  • Citing electronic material

Usually not Allowed

  • Systematic or excessive print copying or digital downloading of electronic material (e.g. downloading an entire e-journal or e-book)
  • Utilizing AU's electronic resources for commercial purposes (e.g. redistributing or selling electronic material for profit)
  • Sharing electronic material with non-authorized users
  • Copying electronic material and posting the actual content to listservs, websites or social networking tools
  • Modifying or creating derivative works of the electronic material

Grey Areas

Some licenses allow inclusion of the electronic material in course reserves, course packs and multiple copying for classroom use and interlibrary loan (ILL); whereas, other licenses explicitly forbid one or more of these activities.

Use of Artificial Intelligence

Using AI technologies with resources provided by online platforms licensed by American University is prohibited. If you are required to sign in using your AU ID to gain access to a library resource, this resource cannot be used with AI.

I. Introduction

American University Library ("Library") is committed to protecting the privacy and confidentiality of its users. This policy is in compliance with applicable federal, state, and local laws, as well as American University's institutional policies such as the Academic Regulations on Confidentiality of Student Records (FERPA).

Our commitment to privacy and confidentiality has deep roots not only in law but also in the ethics and practices of librarianship. In accordance with the American Library Association's Code of Ethics:

  • "We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired, or transmitted."

II. American University Library's Commitment to Users' Rights of Privacy and Confidentiality

American University Library takes reasonable steps to protect user privacy when library resources are used, and how the Library deals with personally identifiable information collected from users.

1. Notice & Openness

American University Library informs its users about the policies governing the amount and retention of personally identifiable information, and about why that information is necessary for the provision of library services through its privacy and information-gathering policies on the American University Library Web site.

American University Library: American University Library may gather information about current and valid library users for the purpose of providing library services. Where it is necessary for the Library to identify users, it is our goal to gather only the minimum information necessary and to retain that information for only as long as it is needed to complete a particular transaction. Some documentation such as Special Collections user registration information may be kept in perpetuity to safeguard library collections. In all cases we try to avoid creating unnecessary records, we try to avoid retaining records not needed for the fulfillment of the mission of the library, and we do not engage in practices that might place information in or on public view.

The Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC): American University Library participates in the Washington Research Library Consortium and certain information is shared across our library services platform, Alma by Ex Libris, in order for us to provide essential library services. These services include: circulating library materials to our users; enabling AU students, staff and faculty to borrow materials from other consortium libraries;  supporting user authentication to subscribed online resources; and delivering shared library services, such as virtual reference.

In order to provide these services, it is necessary that the WRLC have access to American University Library's individual users' personal information. The WRLC abides by the Privacy Policy. Furthermore, the participating members in the WRLC have agreed to maintain the confidentiality of personal records maintained in the shared user database (Washington Research Library Consortium Participant Agreement as amended May 2004, p. 3). Since some of American University Library's systems are administered by WRLC, this privacy policy should be read in conjunction with the WRLC Services Privacy Statement. For the purposes of this policy, it is understood that WRLC is an exception to statements concerning third parties.

2. Choice and Consent

American University Library will keep all personal information confidential. The Library will not sell or license personal information. The Library will not disclose personal information to any third party without the user's consent, unless permitted by this or any University policy; unless permitted or required by any signed contract external contract for vendor services; compelled to do so under the law; or to comply with a legally issued subpoena. All of the library's subscription databases are accessed through the OpenAthens Federated Authentication Service or through an OpenAthens supported proxy server.  Information about OpenAthens privacy practices can be found here. This method of access allows personal information to be protected from vendors. In those instances in which a third party vendor requires personal information from users in order for them to access a subscription service or to use a feature available on the service (such as downloading ebooks), users can supply personal information to vendors directly if the user so chooses.

For unaffiliated community members to receive borrowing privileges, American University Library must obtain certain information about a user in order to provide a library account. This information may include name, university or other valid identification number, library card barcode number, phone number, and home address. To use licensed subscription electronic resources, users are required to submit a name and university identification number to be authenticated as an authorized user.

For users affiliated with American University, the Library automatically receives personally identifiable information to create and update a library account from the Office of the Registrar (for students) or the Office of Human Resources (for employees).

User accounts contain an official email address and mailing address supplied by the University. Users have the option of providing a different email address for the purpose of receiving notifications about library accounts.

In an effort to improve library services, the Library may use personally identifiable information for library assessment and marketing purposes.

3. Access by Users

Individuals who use library services that require the function and process of personally identifiable information are entitled to view their information. Users may view personal information online or in person and users may update personal information at the Library that is not controlled at the University level. Before viewing personal information or providing updated information, a user will be asked for an identification number or card to ensure verification of identity.

The purpose of accessing and updating personally identifiable information is to ensure that library operations can function properly. Such functions may include notification of overdue items, recalls, reminders, etc. Upon request, American University Library will explain the process of accessing or updating user information so that all personally identifiable information is accurate and up to date.

4. Data Integrity & Security

Data Integrity: The data collected and maintained at American University Library must be accurate and secure. The Library takes reasonable steps to assure data integrity, including but not limited to: using only reputable sources of data; providing users access to their own personally identifiable data through the personal library page via their library account; updating data whenever possible; utilizing university-supported authentication systems that authorize use without retaining personally identifiable information; reviewing vendor privacy policies; and destroying obsolete data or converting it to anonymous form.

Data Retention: American University Library takes reasonable steps to protect personally identifiable information from unauthorized disclosure once it is no longer needed to manage library services or collections. Information that should be regularly purged or shredded includes but is not limited to personally identifiable information on library resource use, material circulation history, and security/surveillance logs. When necessary, the Library works with the Washington Research Library Consortium and its member institutions to purge information housed on the WRLC network/shared via our library services platform.

Tracking Users: American University Library regularly anonymizes information about user borrowing history and encourages the WRLC and its member libraries to remove links between user records and materials borrowed when items are returned and any fines have been settled, and to delete records as soon as the original purpose for data collection has been satisfied.  American University Library has invested in appropriate technology to reasonably protect the security of any personally identifiable information while it is in the library's custody, and the Library takes reasonable measures to ensure that aggregate, summary data is stripped of personally identifiable information.

The Library does not ask library users to identify themselves or reveal any personal information unless they are borrowing materials, requesting special services (such making room reservations or booking appointments), accessing the building during restricted hours, or involved in incidents relating to security, safety, or conduct. Users making remote use from outside the library of those portions of the Library's Web site restricted to registered users under license agreements or other special arrangements may also be required to provide identity information. The Library regularly removes cookies, Web search history, cached files, or other computer/Internet use records, and other software code that are placed on library computers or networks.

Third Party Security: We take reasonable measures to ensure that American University Library's contracts, licenses, and offsite computer service arrangements reflect Library policies and legal obligations concerning user privacy and confidentiality. Through WRLC, American University Library contracts with Ex Libris to provide our Library Services Platform which also stores all the platform’s information related to the library on their secure cloud-based servers.  Ex Libris’ privacy policy is available here.  Should other third parties require access to our users' personally identifiable information, where possible, Library agreements address appropriate restrictions on the retention, use, aggregation, dissemination, and sale of that information. When connecting to licensed databases outside the library, the Library releases only information that authenticates users as authorized users. The Library may identify and contact any user who may be in breach of such a license.

Cookies: Users of networked computers will need to enable cookies in order to access a number of resources available through the library. A cookie is a small file sent to the browser by a Web site each time that site is visited. Cookies are stored on the user's computer and can potentially transmit personal information. Cookies are often used to remember information about preferences and pages visited. The user can refuse to accept cookies, can disable cookies, and remove cookies from their hard drive. However, disabling or refusing to accept cookies may render some subscription databases unusable. American University Library's servers use cookies solely to verify that a person is an authorized user in order to allow access to licensed library resources and to customize Web pages to that user's specification. Cookies sent by the library servers are deleted when the user's computer browser is closed. The Library will not share cookies information with external third parties.

Security Measures: American University Library's security measures involve both managerial and technical policies and procedures to reasonably protect against loss and the unauthorized access, destruction, use, or disclosure of the data. The Library's managerial measures include but are not limited to internal organizational procedures that limit access to data and ensure that those individuals with access do not utilize the data for unauthorized purposes. The Library's technical security measures to reasonably prevent unauthorized access include but are not limited to encryption in the transmission and storage of data; limits on access through use of federated authentication service. The American University Library, under American University’s privacy statement, implements appropriate security measures to promote the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of any information in the possession (or control) of the University.

Staff Access to Personal Data: American University Library permits only authorized Library staff with assigned confidential passwords to access personal data stored in the Library's computer system for the purpose of performing library work.

Washington Research Library Consortium: Much of the personal information collected by American University Library is stored on Ex Libris’ cloud-based servers managed under our contract with WRLC. American University Library works with the WRLC to ensure the privacy protection of users.

5. Enforcement & Redress

The Library conducts periodic privacy audits in order to ensure that all library programs and services are in compliance with the Library's privacy policy. Library users who have questions or concerns about this policy should contact the University Librarian.

The American University Library authorizes only the University Librarian, or their designee, to receive requests from law enforcement officers. Before responding to any law enforcement requests, the Library must confer with the Office of General Counsel to determine the appropriate response. Generally, the Library does not make library records available to any agency of state, federal, or local government unless a subpoena, warrant, court order or other investigatory document is issued by a court of competent jurisdiction that shows good cause and is in proper form. All library staff refer any law enforcement inquiries to the University Librarian. In the event that the University Librarian or their designee cannot be contacted, library staff immediately refer any inquiries to General Counsel.

Based on the "Model Privacy Policy" of the Intellectual Freedom Office of the American Library Association Accessed 2/16/05.

Approved by User Services Team - July 26, 2005

Draft subject to review by University Counsel; approved for limited distribution by University Librarian - September 12, 2005

Revised draft approved by University Counsel - March 31, 2006

Revised draft approved by User Services Team - June 13, 2006

Revised draft approved by University Librarian - June 13, 2006

Revised and approved by University Librarian - February 16, 2017

Revised and approved by University Librarian – February 14, 2023

User Bill of Rights

As an American University Library User, you have the right to expect the following:

  1. Knowledgeable, courteous, and respectful service.
  2. Prompt attention given to your questions and concerns.
  3. Timely responses for requested material and services.
  4. Training in the effective use of library resources.
  5. Civil treatment from other library users.
  6. A safe, quiet, and clean place to study.
  7. Access to library materials without censorship restrictions.
  8. Confidential interaction with library personnel and privacy of your library records. As permitted by law.
  9. Policies and procedures clearly explained and equitably applied.
  10. Coordinated efforts by library personnel to expedite referrals, overcome impediments, and follow through to verify that reasonable accommodations are made to meet your research needs.

User Responsibilities Statement

As an American University Library User, you have the following responsibilities:

  1. Respect the rights of users to study and research.
  2. Treat library personnel with courtesy, and respect their duties and obligations.
  3. Provide identifying information if requested by library personnel for the purposes of conducting library business.
  4. Adhere to library rules, American University policies and guidelines, the student code of conduct, the academic integrity code, as well as municipal, state, and federal statutes.
  5. Monitor your personal property while in the library.
  6. Treat library materials, equipment and furnishings in a manner that will preserve them for future users.
  7. Respect the rights of others to freely access the library’s print, non-print media., and electronic resources.
  8. Notify library personnel when your library needs are not being met so that timely and corrective action may be taken.

The faculty and staff of the American University Library are dedicated to providing quality service, collections, and amenities that support the scholarly pursuits of the entire campus community.

The American University Library practices ALA’s Library Bill of Rights and supports all library users in the advancement of their own knowledge. A user’s right to use the library will not be denied because of origin, age, background, or views. The American University Library supports free expression and free access to materials and ideas.

At present we are not accepting any donations of books or other materials for our general collection. If you are interested in making a donation to the AU Archives please send an email to archives@american.edu to discuss.

For other materials, consider the local organizations linked below. There is also a Take-a-Book/Leave-a-Book shelf on the Lower Level of the library in the printing alcove. Additionally many communities in the District have a Little Free Library where individual books can be contributed.

Public Libraries
Local Nonprofits

These are the documented Policies and Procedures for the University Library. If you can't find what you are looking for, please contact the Information Desk at (202) 885-3232 and we will help you find the answer.