Library Card Terms and Conditions

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 fees may take place at any Library location with the exception of Schomburg.

Fees are charged for lost or damaged items.

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.

Eligibility Requirements

When applying for a New York Public Library card in person, or providing proof of their eligibility to receive a digital card, 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 or City IDs:

  • Current driver's license
  • Current photo learner's permit
  • Current non-driver's identification (includes IDNYC)

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
  • 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 0-12 must have their application completed and signed by a parent or guardian. As of October 2022, children and young adults do not need to provide proof of identification to validate their card.

*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 2 months prior to the application date.

**Note: Any of the above must be dated within the last 2 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.

Digital Library Cards

As long as your location within New York State can be verified, you can receive a free digital library card right now using the online application. With a digital library card, you get free access to the Library’s wide array of digital resources—including e-books, databases, educational resources, and more. Digital library cards do not provide access to Culture Pass.

If you are within New York State but your location cannot be verified via the online form, you will still receive a temporary library card that allows you to place holds on physical items. Please visit a branch or email to complete the process and receive your digital library card.

Special Notes on Young Adult Borrowers

Young Adults who are age 13 through 17 or are in the seventh to twelfth grade are not required to present identification to obtain an application for a library card.

  • Young Adult borrowers have access to the same library materials as Adult borrowers.
  • Parents/guardians of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 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. A parent or guardian does not need to be present for a child with a signed library card application to be issued their card.
  • On the library card application, parents/or guardians determine whether their child may borrow all library materials or only juvenile materials.
  • Parents or legal guardians can register children under the age of 13 for a digital account through the SimplyE app.
  • 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) 930-0020 - 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) Borrowers

  • Visitors from out-of-state or abroad are welcome to use the Library’s resources on-site. Non-residents may be issued a visitor's library card on-site,with a three month expiration date.
  • In order to qualify for a three month visitor account applicants must present photo id and  proof of address (i.e. passport and utility bill) for their locality.

Special Notes on Brooklyn and Queens Public Library Card Holders

  • As a courtesy to other New York City library ​users, Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Library cardholders may use their existing card once it is linked to ​their ​NYPL​ account​.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • For adult patrons: 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 Cardholders in the Metro Area
  • 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 for Non-Metro NY Cardholders
  • If you reside in New York State please submit a scan or pictures of (2) two pieces of mail, delivered within the last (2) two months to your New York State address. Please include your name, and your Library card number (to be renewed). In the Subject Line type Card Renewal. You can email
  • Visitor Cards may be renewed in-person at any NYPL location with proof of permanent address and photo ID. The Library does not renew Visitor Cards online.

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 physical cardholders belonging to the same family when they are borrowing materials from the branches. Note that linking patron records is solely intended to expedite circulation transactions by allowing for quick navigation between one linked record and the next.

Linking records does not give a patron the ability to view online, request or borrow items on a card belonging to a patron to whom they are linked.

Hold Pickup Authorization

In situations where you would like to authorize another NYPL cardholder (e.g. a spouse or caretaker) to collect requested items, you can call 917-275-6975 ext 3 or your local branch. After staff verbally verify your account information a note stating the name of the person who will pick up holds on your behalf will be placed on the records of both patrons. This permits only the checkout of your hold requests that are ready for pickup. Please make sure the person retrieving your hold(s) has your library card - if they only have your card number, they must present photo I.D.

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. Patrons who live outside the five boroughs in New York State should e-mail a scan of their photo ID with proof of address and an indication that a replacement card is requested.

Library Notices

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 lost 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 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 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 fees attached to their patron record.

Educator Cards

To facilitate the Library's outreach efforts to NYC schools, we are pleased to offer expanded access to library resources and services through our Educator Cards. This card, available to Educators employed at Pre-K-12 schools as well as staff employed at daycares, camps, afterschools, and homeschooling parents, offer significantly more privileges than those available on personal cards. Learn more.

Downloadable Application Forms

As an alternative 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.