General Policy Statements
Any person who lives, works, attends school or pays property taxes in New York State is eligible to receive a New York Public Library card free of charge. Use of a New York Public Library card is non-transferrable, i.e., can only be used by the person whose name appears on the card.
The above status entitles you to one New York Public Library card. The Library will merge or delete the records of any user found to have multiple active cards.
Any organization that operates in the 5 boroughs of NYC is eligible to apply for a New York Public Library Organizational Borrower’s card free of charge valid for one year.
All materials borrowed must be returned on or before the due date. The Library offers universal returns – most circulating material can be returned to any New York Public Library location in the Bronx, Manhattan or Staten Island, except the Schomburg Center. Likewise, pickup of holds and payment of fines and fees may take place at any Library location with the exception of Schomburg.
Fines are charged for items returned after their due date.
Cardholders are responsible for all materials borrowed on their card, all use of the card and all charges made against it, until the card is reported lost to the Library.
When applying for a New York Public Library card in person, or providing proof of their identity to validate a card received in the mail, an applicant must show proof that he/she lives, works, attends school, or pays property taxes in New York State. To apply for a card:
Adults may provide only one piece of identification if it is 1 of the following valid New York State IDs:
- Current driver's license
- Current photo learner's permit
- Current non-driver's identification
Young Adults (ages 12-18) can show the same ID as adults. Alternatively, young adults may present 1 of the following, provided name and address* are included in the documentation:
- Current school photo ID
- Current report or program card
- Working papers
If the above documentation is not available, any 2 of the following forms of identification are acceptable for adults and/or young adults, provided one shows a photo and name and/or signature and the other the applicant's current address:
- Current college or university photo ID card
- Current employee photo ID card
- New York City welfare ID card
- Current Armed Services ID card
- Alien Registration photo ID card
- Matricula Consular (Mexican CID)
- Current passport
- Medicare/Medicaid card
- Social Security card
- Birth certificate
- Medicare/Medicaid card
- New York State motor vehicle registration
- Professional, vocational or union photo ID
- Current rent bill or lease agreement
- Tax bill or receipt**
- Transit pass
- Current photo ID with signature and expiration date issued by an embassy or consulate in New York
- Statement from a homeless shelter*
- Bank statement**
- Cable, phone or utility bill**
- Any piece of mail delivered by the US Post Office**
Children ages 0-11 must have their application completed and signed by a parent or guardian, who can provide the above identification/address validation on their child's behalf.
*Note: Post office boxes are not accepted as mailing addresses. Proof of residence is required.
**Note: Any tax bills, rent receipts or statements from a homeless shelter used for verification of your identity must be dated no more than 3 months prior to the application date.
**Note: Any of the above must be dated within the last 3 months, as indicated by the postmark or date of printed e-bill.
The name and address provided to verify your identification must match the information entered on the application.
The same identification must also be presented when a change to the borrower’s address is made and when replacing a lost card. Cardholders are required to report change of name or address information promptly.
Special Notes on Young Adult Borrowers
Young Adults who are age 12 through 18 or are in the seventh to twelfth grade must present identification that indicates their grade level or age to obtain an application for a library card.
- A parent/guardian may verify his/her child's age in the absence of identification.
- Young Adult borrowers have access to the same library materials as Adult borrowers.
Parents/guardians of teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 may be given information about overdue materials only, upon presentation of the youth’s library card barcode number, printed overdue notice, or personal identification that confirms that the adult is the youth’s parent/guardians
Special Notes on Juvenile Borrowers
- Children may be present to receive their library cards, but their presence is not required.
- A children’s application form must be signed by a parent or guardian. If a parent/guardian is not present, the library card application must be taken home for completion and signature. When completed, valid identification/address verification must be presented by the parent or guardian on behalf of the child.
- On the library card application, parents/or guardians determine whether their child may borrow all library materials or only juvenile materials.
- Children under the age of 12 will not be able to register for library cards over the Internet.
- Parents/guardians are responsible for the lost or damaged materials borrowed by their children
Special Notes on Organizational Borrowers
- Cards of this type are available only to organizations located in the five boroughs of NYC.
- In order to receive an organizational borrower’s card, a brief letter of request on organizational letterhead must be submitted along with the completed application form. The authorized person who signs the application form must show identification and his/her name will be added to the record alongside the name of the organization.
- Only one card will be issued to any organization. The organization will be responsible for all materials borrowed.
- If the organization has a change of address or phone number, or the card is lost, the library must be notified immediately.
- All regulations of the New York Public Library apply to the organizational borrower’s card.
- Organizational cards are valid for one year.
Special Notes on Homebound/Books by Mail Borrowers
The books-by-mail program is for individuals who can use regular library materials, but are unable to leave their homes due to a temporary or permanent disability. Applications are available in all neighborhood branch libraries or by calling (212) 621-0564 or TTY (212) 930-0950 - 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. See Services for Persons with Disabilities: Books By Mail for more details.
Special Notes on Non-Resident (Visitor or Temporary) Borrowers
- Visitors from out-of-state or abroad are welcome to use the Library’s resources on-site, many of which do not require the issuance of a library card. For access to Research Libraries’ collections, non-residents may be issued a free temporary library card on-site, with an expiration date reflecting the brevity of their stay.
- These card types are available to applicants who do not live, work, attend school or pay property taxes in the state of New York, who present an equivalent form of ID for their locality.
- With the exception of a much sooner expiration date of up to three months from the date of issuance, all other registration procedures are applicable to the applicants.
Special Notes on Existing Cardholders
- Research Library-issued Access Cards as well as cards issued in the Branch Libraries will continue to be accepted at all New York Public Library locations until their expiration date.
- The records of borrowers with both an Access and Branch Library card will be merged. The merge will include the consolidation of any materials currently checked out, as well as any existing fines and fees to a single record. Only the most recently issued card will remain valid.
Special Notes on Brooklyn and Queens Public Library Card Holders
- As a courtesy to other New York City library users, Brooklyn Public Library cardholders may use their existing cards once it is linked to NYPL.
- Unfortunately this service is not available to Queens Public Library cardholders at this time.
- Materials borrowed from The New York Public Library branches cannot be returned at the Brooklyn Public Library or The Queens Borough Public Library.
- Materials borrowed from the Brooklyn Public Library or The Queens Borough Public Library must be returned to their respective branch libraries.
Renewing or Validating Your Library Card
- All adult, teen and child library cards for cardholders in the NY Metro area and NY State expire and must be renewed every three years.
- Cardholder expiration dates are visible in the My Account section of catalog.nypl.org when you login with your library card number and PIN. An expiration alert is applied to borrower records on the Library Messages tab, also visible on login, in advance of the expiration date.
- Expired cards must be renewed/validated before they can be used to borrow materials, download content from eNYPL or The Library's online databases, or access Library computers.
- If you still have your card at the date of its expiration and you wish to renew it, there is no need to apply for a new card.
- The above-mentioned forms of identification must be presented to renew or validate your library card. Additional required information may be requested by the Library as needed.
- Cards issued to patrons from outside of NY State and/or the NY Metro area or patrons who do not meet the above eligibility criteria expire at shorter intervals, require similar identification and must be renewed in person.
- Organization and Educator cards expire after one year.
- Library cards cannot be renewed and contact/personal information cannot be updated by phone.
Renewal/Validation for Metro NY Cardholders
- Cardholders in the NY Metro area (the 5 boroughs of NYC) must visit any New York Public Library location in the Bronx, Manhattan or Staten Island in order to renew their card.
Renewal/Validation for Non-Metro NY Cardholders
- Cardholders from areas of NY State outside of the Metro NY outside of the 5 boroughs, may e-mail scans or copies of the required forms of identification listed to email@example.com. Alternatively, this information may be faxed to (212) 621-0278.
- New library card applicants from these areas who applied for their card online and elected to receive it in the mail must first e-mail the above-mentioned form(s) of identification after receiving their card to validate it before full cardholder privileges can be extended. Both the library card number and required identification must be included with any renewal/validation request. Incomplete and/or unreadable information will not be accepted and will delay the continued use of your card.
- Cardholders from areas outside of New York, who work, attend school or pay property taxes in NY must provide current proof of this status at the time of renewal. New applicants from these areas should e-mail this proof of to firstname.lastname@example.org at the time of application. Actual identification required to validate a newly issued card should not be provided until the card is received in the mail.
Linking Your Record
Applicants for a library card are given the option to "link" their record to another patron on our application form. This service allows increased ease of navigation between cardholders belonging to the same family. Note that linking patron records is solely intended to expedite circulation transactions by allowing for quick navigation beween one linked record and the next.
Linking records does not give a patron the ability to view, request or borrow items on a card belonging to a patron to whom they are linked.
In situations where one patron (e.g. a spouse) would like to be authorized to collect requested items held by another, both patrons must first confirm this in person with a Library staff member. A note stating the name of the person who will pick up holds on your behalf will then be placed on the records of both patrons. This applies only to active hold requests, not additional checkouts on the card.
Lost and Replacement Library Cards
When you register for a New York Public Library card, you accept responsibility for all items on the card, all use made of the card and all charges made against it until your card is reported lost. The Library must have a record of your card having been reported lost, or it is not considered lost. Therefore it is to the patron’s benefit to report the loss or theft of a library card immediately.
The cost of replacing a lost or stolen library card is $1.00. This fee is assessed at the time the card is reported lost.
Report lost cards by phone, in person at any Library location, or by e-mail. Eligible users may also apply for a replacement library card online.
The New York Public Library provides a notification service for held items, overdue materials and other service-specific reasons. Notices are available via telephone or e-mail and the method by which you receive them is chosen at the time you apply for a card. Additionally, notices and bills for overdue material will be sent to the mailing address on record at the Library. Cardholders are required to select a notice preference and to provide a valid telephone number or e-mail address on their account. Additionally, it is the responsibility of the borrower to notify The Library if any of their contact information changes.
If you receive a paper bill notice for a lost or overdue item and the address listed on the notice is no longer up to date, you may mail in your corrected address on the postage paid mailer. However, your card will be blocked until you have verified the change of address on your next visit to the library.
Note: In the case of borrowers who receive their notices by e-mail, it is their responsibility to make sure that e-mails sent from addresses with @nypl.org in the sender information be allowed through any filters they may have in place on their Inbox.
Library notices are sent as a courtesy. Failure to receive a notice does not absolve the borrower from any fines or fees attached to their patron record.
Downloadable Application Forms
As an alternatve to our online application form, eligible applicants may download and print a library card application to complete in advance of their visit to a library location. The required forms of identification listed above must be presented for any application submitted.