Frequently Asked Questions

Borrowing and Circulating Information

How can I get a
library card?

Tip: Get a jump start by registering for an eCard now. You can use it to access many things online and it will be easier to upgrade to a full card later!

  Go to any branch of the Boston Public Library with photo identification that shows your name and address, and has your signature.  The easiest form of ID is a Massachusetts Drivers License or State ID card showing your current address.  Another alternative is to bring a letter that came to you in the mail, in conjunction with a form of photo ID that bears your signature such as a health card, student ID, or credit card.  You may also bring a signed copy of your lease in conjunction with a second form of ID.

Patrons may show proof of address on an electronic device in addition to their photo ID.  Some examples of electronic documentation include:  gas bills, credit card bills or bank statements.

Where can I use my library card?

At the Central Library in Copley Square, at all neighborhood Branch Libraries located all around Boston and in member libraries of the Metro Boston Library Network: the public libraries of Chelsea and Malden.

You can borrow material from any library on this list and return it to any other library on this list. If your library doesn't have the item you want, you can ask to have it sent from another network library to your library.

How much does a library card cost?

Your library card is free. If you lose it, you will have to pay a $1 replacement fee.

It does not cost anything to use the Boston Public Library if you remember 3 simple rules:

  • return borrowed books and other materials on time
  • return what you borrowed in good condition
  • keep track of your library card

How long can I keep the material I borrow?

You may books and CDs that you borrow from the Boston Public Library for 21 days (3 weeks). DVDs may be borrowed for 7 days. Different loan periods may apply for other items. When you check out items, you'll be given (or sent electronically) a receipt with the due date(s) listed on it. You may also check due dates online.

If you keep items longer than the due date, you will have to pay an overdue fine for each day each item is late.

What if I don't have the money to pay for my overdue items?

Bring them back as soon as you can anyway! The fine stops as soon as the books are back at the library, even if you don't pay it right away, and someone else has a chance to use the material. You can pay the fine a little at a time or all at once when you have the money.

How many items may I borrow at one time?

The Boston Public Library allows people to borrow up to 75 items at one time. However, DVDs are limited to 10 per person. Other libraries in the Metro Boston Library Network have different policies regarding the maximum number of items.

What if my dog chews my book?

You are responsible for returning library books and other material in good condition. When a book is damaged you may have to pay for its repair or replacement. Talk to a library staff member and explain what happened.

What if I don't finish something I borrowed before it is due back at the library?

Bring the item back to the library and ask to renew it. If no one else is waiting for it and your account is in good standing, you will be allowed to borrow it for another full loan period. Downloadable material like eBooks return themselves automatically, but they may be checked out again immediately if no one else is waiting to check out the title.

What if I can't find my book to return it?

If a book is overdue for more than 30 days, the computer will think that you are not going to bring it back and will charge you to replace it. If you find the book and bring it back, all you will have to pay are the overdue fines, not the price of the book.

Is it okay to let someone else use my library card?

No! Your library card is yours. If you let your best friend, your older brother, or your younger sister borrow something with your library card, you are the one who will be fined if the item is lost, damaged, or kept overdue. Be sure to report a lost card immediately so that no one else will be able to use it.

If you are unable to come into the library, please download a copy of the designee form to authorize other people to pick up items in your name.

Do I have to have my library card with me each time I come to the library?

You have to have your library card, or some ID with your name and address, with you to take anything out of the library. You do not usually need your card to look up general information, attend Story Hour, watch a movie, join the chess club, etc., but there may be times when you will be asked to show your library card to use some materials inside the library. Check with the staff at your local library for further information.

How long is my card good for?

You will be asked to update your address in person every two years. You will not be able to use your card until you've verified your address.

How big is the Boston Public Library?
Big enough to offer you over 8.9 million books, DVDs and CDs; 12,000 free programs; plus maps, music scores, answers to millions of questions and more. If you have more questions about the Boston Public Library or your library card, ask at any Boston Public Library location. Staff will be glad to help you.