Boston Public Library
General Summary

Borrowing and Circulating Information

Eligibility for a Borrower's Card

library cardsWho can get a full service Boston Public Library Card?

  • Massachusetts residents
  • Massachusetts property owners
  • People commuting to Massachusetts for work
  • Students residing in Massachusetts while attending school
  • Residents of temporary housing in Massachusetts

Children 12 and under need a parent’s signature to get a library card.

Note: Library cards are not transferable. They may be used only by the person to whom they are issued.

Use of Library Cards

Registered borrowers may borrow circulating library materials from the Central Library, the Branch Libraries, and the libraries in the Metro Boston Library Network.

How to Register

To become a registered borrower, apply at one of our locations and furnish photo identification which includes your name, present address, and has your signature. (See "How can I get a library card?" in our FAQ.)

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!

If you have a valid library card from another Massachusetts library network, you may choose to use the same card when registering for borrowing privileges at the Boston Public Library. If you are using the card of another network, you will need to furnish identification which includes your present address and bears your signature.

Borrowing and Returning Library Materials


Books and CDs may be borrowed 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.


The Library reserves the right to limit the number of items to be borrowed.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.


Certain exceptions apply -- please check at the Borrower Services Desk. You may renew in person, by the automated phone system (617-859-5908), or online. For automated phone system and online renewals you will need a PIN.


Material borrowed from one BPL location may be returned to any other BPL location. They may also be returned to any Library in the Metro Boston Library Network.


Borrowers are held responsible for material borrowed by means of their library cards. Borrowers should report immediately to the Library the loss of a card, a change in name, or a change in address. Borrower's cards are not transferable.

If an item is overdue for more than 30 days or if the maximum fine ($10.00) accrues on your account, you will not be able to borrow materials or renew items you currently have borrowed from the Library, until the materials are returned and fines are settled.

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.

Fines and Fees

See our fines and fees page.