Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Putting a Book on Hold (But Were Afraid to Ask)

By Carrie McBride, Communications
March 10, 2020
Holds section of library

When you discover a book you are eager to read, it can be a huge buzzkill when you can't find it on the library shelf! Did you know you can request that a hold be put on the book for you? This means that if the book is on the shelf at another branch library, it will be sent to the branch of your choice to be picked up. Or, if all copies of the book are checked out to other library patrons, you will join a queue and, when it's your turn, you can pick it up at the library.

Placing a hold is only three simple steps: search, click, pick it up! Here's how:

How to put a book on hold at The New York Public Library

STEP 1:  Search the NYPL catalog for the title you want 

STEP 2: Select the Place Hold option next to an item you are interested in that is not available at your neighborhood library and enter your library card number and PIN.

catalog screenshot

STEP 3: Once you receive notification (by email or phone) that your item is available, head to the holds shelf at the library location you designated. Find your book on the holds shelf using the last four digits of your library card and check it out as you normally would. (You have 7 days to pick the item up before it's returned to circulation.)

You did it! Spread the word about how easy it is and enjoy your book!



library holds shelf

Can I put a hold on ANY material or just books?

You may place a hold on any item that is available for borrowing, except Book Express and DVD Express titles, CD Express titles, videogames,  or items that are non-circulating, such as reference materials.

How many holds can I have at a time?

You may request up to 15 circulating items at a time to be delivered to the NYPL Library location of your choice. (Eligible Educator Borrowers may request up to 50 items at a time.)

How do I see and manage my holds?

Under the Log In tab, choose Log Into the Catalog.

log in screenshot

Once you've entered your library card number and PIN, you will be able to see and manage your holds.

manage holds screenshot

How do I know my item is ready to be picked up?

Once your item is ready for pickup, the Library will notify you. You can indicate your notice preferences—email or telephone—in My Settings.

modify settings screenshot

Can someone else pick up my hold book for me?

The library card used to request the item must be the same card used to check out the item. In order to allow for a family member or other proxy borrower to check out library materials requested by another, both parties must agree to it in person at a library location. An explanatory note will be placed on the records by library staff and they will be linked.   Note that this applies only to active requests and not additional checkouts or other use of the card.

I changed my mind—can I cancel a hold?

Yes. Using your Library account, you may cancel requests until the item has been routed to the pickup location.

Can I change the pickup location that I chose?

Yes. Using your Library account, you may change the selected pickup location until the item has been routed to the pickup location.

What do I do if I'm going out of town and don't want the hold to arrive while I'm gone?

Using your Library account, you can place a "freeze" on your hold.  You will continue to advance in the queue but your request will not be filled until you unfreeze your hold. 

How do I know where my place in the queue is?

When you are logged into your account, you can see how many people are ahead of you in line for your item.

queue status screenshot