How do I get a Baltimore County Public Library card?
To apply for a Baltimore County Public library card, visit the Accounts Desk at any Baltimore County Public Library branch or any Mobile Library Services bookmobile stop and bring your valid identification showing your current mailing address. If you are 17 years of age or under and do not have valid identification, a parent/guardian must be present to show a valid photo ID and sign a registration form to allow you to get a permanent library card.
Why should you get a permanent library card?
- BCPL requires a library card to checkout materials, to sign up for a computer, and to access many of our services.
- With a card, less time will be spent standing in line for assisted checkout or computer sign up.
- Allows you access to self-service options in branches and from home, including holds, renewals, electronic databases and online payments.
- Gives you access to your account information.
- Will permit you to complete your library transactions with a greater degree of privacy.
If you do not already have a library card, you can register for one online by completing the Online Registration (opens in new window). Out-of-state residents, please see information about out-of-state cards and fees before registering online.
After you register online, you will then be sent a Baltimore County Public Library e-card number which can immediately be used to access the library's free, online research databases (opens new window) or to place a reserve or hold on materials using the library catalog (opens new window)
Applying for a Permanent Library Card
You will need to bring your valid photo ID and apply for a permanent library card, in-person, at any Baltimore County Public Library branch in order to check out material, use a computer at the library and to use other library services.
If you have placed holds on OverDrive downloadable eBooks or audiobooks before you get a permanent library card and then get a permanent library card before your holds are ready, please email OverDrive support (opens in new window) requesting that your holds be transferred from your online registration card number to your permanent card number.
Can I get a library card registration form in a language other than English?
Paper registration forms may be printed in Korean [PDF] (opens new window), Russian [PDF] (opens new window) and Spanish [PDF] (opens new window). Fill out the form and take it to your branch to get a library card.
What do I need to get a library card? What is valid identification?
For Adults, ages 18 years and older:
You must have a current Maryland driver's license, learner's permit, and provisional license or Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration identification card showing your current address. If you have changed your address, a Motor Vehicle Administration update must accompany your driver's license or identification card.
If you do not have a photo ID showing your current address, you must show one additional piece of valid identification showing your current address.
If the above forms of identification are not available, you will be mailed an identification postal, which must be returned to any Baltimore County Public Library branch within 30 days. You will need to bring one piece of valid identification showing both your current name and address along with the identification postal. Your library card will be issued when you present the postal and valid identification.
Examples of additional forms of valid identification that can be used along with a photo ID or identification postal:
- Current vehicle registration
- Current vehicle insurance card
- Official mail, for example utility bill, bank statement, insurance bill, et cetera, with postmark not older than one month
- Lease dated within the last month
- Check book with printed address
- For children in group homes, verification of identity and address by the staff of the home is acceptable
Can a child get a library card?
Ages 14 to 17
You can get a library card if you have a valid ID - a current Maryland driver's license, learner's permit, provisional license or Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration identification card showing your current address. If you have changed your address, a Motor Vehicle Administration update must accompany your driver's license or identification card.
If you do not have a photo ID showing your current address, you must show one additional form of valid identification showing your current address.
If you do not have valid identification then a parent or guardian must accompany you to the library, show a valid photo ID and sign a registration form to allow you to get a permanent library card.
Checking out DVDs and Video Games:
Parental permission and signature is required at the time of registration in order to check out DVDs and video games other than those rated for children. Children's video games are identified with a J before the call number.
Child under 14 years old
A parent or legal guardian, 18 years or older, must apply for a library card for a child under 14 years old. The child must be present at the time of application. The parent or guardian must show valid ID and must sign the card before it may be used. The person signing the card is accepting financial responsibility for materials borrowed or any charges incurred on a child's card.
Non-custodial Guardian Accompanying the Child:
The guardian (including grandparents, aunts and uncles, adult siblings, foster parents) must live at the same address and be 18 years old or older. The guardian must show identification as noted above that verifies the address on the registration form and must sign the child's card.
Checking out DVDs and Video Games:
Parental permission and signature is required at the time of registration in order to check out DVDs and video games other than those rated for children. Children's video games are identified with a J before the call number.
Does my library card expire? Do I have to renew my library card?
All Baltimore County Public Library cards become inactive every few years. In order to reactive your library card, you must update your address and contact information by going to the Account Management Desk at any Baltimore County Public Library branch or any Mobile Library Services Bookmobile stop and present your Maryland Driver's License or Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration identification card.
If there has been a change of address, a Motor Vehicle Administration update must accompany your driver's license or Identification card. If identification is unavailable, please bring one of the following valid identification items along with your library card.
What should I do if my name or my address changed?
If you edit your contact information online or call to update your information by phone, you will need to show valid identification at any BCPL branch to verify the new contact details before you will be able to check out materials on your account.
Use any of the following methods to update your contact information in your library account:
- Online: You cannot change your name online; to change your name please phone or visit your nearest branch. You can change your address, phone number and email by logging into your library account (opens new window) using your library card number (barcode) or the username you created and your password. When in your account, click the Contact Information and Preferences button. Edit your contact information and then click the Submit Change Request button at the bottom of the form.
What do I do if my library card is lost, stolen or damaged?
If your library card has been lost or stolen you should report it immediately in-person or by phone at any Baltimore County Public Library branch. If you phone your branch, press option 3 on your telephone keypad to report your lost or stolen library card. You are responsible for any items checked out on your library card until it has been reported.
To get a replacement card, you will need to show valid ID at the Account Management Desk of any of our branches to obtain a new card. Replacement cost for a damaged or lost library card is $2.00.
If my old card was lost or stolen will my holds transfer if I get a new card?
Holds on all materials (except downloadable titles) will automatically transfer. If you have placed holds on OverDrive downloadable titles please email OverDrive's Front Line Tech Support (opens in new window). You do not have to know your old library card number to request that your holds to be transferred. But you do need to include the email address you used when placing those holds and your new library card number. Unfortunately, holds on 3M downloadable eBooks cannot be transferred to a new card so it is best not to get a new card if you are in the middle of reading any 3M titles.
Can I use my library card from another Maryland public library systems at BCPL?
To use a library card from another Maryland public library system at any BCPL branch, it must be registered at the Account Management Desk at any of our branches. Once your card is registered you may borrow our materials or use our subscription research databases (opens new window).
A new library card will be issued only if your current library card's identification number is not compatible with our circulation software. Valid identification is required. Online registering of another public library's card is not available.
I do not live in Maryland, I live out of state. Can I still get a library card?
Out-of-state Library Card Fee / Library Cards for Non-Maryland Residents
Beginning July 1, 2010, customers who are not residents of Maryland may obtain a BCPL out-of-state library card with valid ID and payment of an annual $50.00 out-of-state fee. Current BCPL cardholders who live out-of-state must pay the $50.00 fee to continue using their library card.
This fee is an annual fee and must be paid in full before an out-of-state library card will be issued. BCPL cannot accept partial payments for this fee. If customers are not able to pay the fee in full, they can opt to have their material held for up to three days.
Out-of-state library cards expire one year from date of payment.
Out-of-state residents who have paid this type of fee to any another Maryland library system are not exempt from paying the BCPL fee.
Students who attend a Maryland school (but their permanent residence is out-of-state) do not have to pay the fee if they can provide a current Maryland school ID. These cards expire one year from date of registration.
Maryland property owners who live out-of-state can obtain an out-of-state card without paying the fee if they provide their current year Maryland Property Tax Bill and a valid ID (their out-of-state license or other ID) showing their current, permanent, out-of state address. These cards also expire one year from the date of registration.
How do I request a title / place a hold?
In order to place a request for a title, you must have a Baltimore County Public Library card or have previously registered your library card from any other Maryland public library with us. You can obtain a BCPL e-card number by registering online. All eligible material may be reserved (placed on hold) at any Baltimore County Public Library branch either in-person, by phone or online using the BCPL catalog.
There is no charge for placing a hold on an item owned by BCPL. You will be notified when your material is available at your pick up location. Reserves are held for seven days. If an item is not picked up, there is a $1.00 charge per item. If an item is not owned by BCPL and is not available through the Marina system there is a $2.00 fee for each item placed through the Interlibrary Loan Service. There are several ways to check the status of your reserves (holds).
To place a reserve (hold) - if you already have a library card number (barcode number) then you can log into your account (opens new window), search for a title and click on the Place Request button. Your password defaults to the last four digits of your phone number. If you wish, you can change your password after you log into your account at least once using the default password. You can also change your Barcode to a User Name after you log in at least once using your barcode and the default password.
How do I cancel, postpone or suspend a title I have requested?
There are several ways to cancel a request for a hold. The Information Desk staff at any Baltimore County Public Library branch can help you cancel your requested items.
If the items have not yet arrived at your branch, you can cancel by logging onto your library account and canceling your request. To do this, you will need your library card number (barcode) and password. The default password for an account is the last four digits or your phone number until you change it. Click on the Requests link on the left side of your Account page to see your reserves/holds. Select those you wish to cancel. The filling of one or more hold requests can be suspended until a later date or a suspended hold can be reactived through the same Requests link in your library account.
If the items you requested are "ready for pick up" or are in transit ("Shipped"), then you cannot cancel or change the hold pickup date online but must call the branch to which you requested the item be sent. When you call the branch, after the recording picks up, press 3 to speak to someone about your library account information. Have your library card number ready.
How do I get a title not owned by Baltimore County Public Library?
Titles not owned by the Baltimore County Public Library may be obtained through our Interlibrary Loan Service, which includes:
You must have a valid library card from the Baltimore County Public Library in order to request material through our Interlibrary Loan Service. You will be notified when a requested item is available at your designated pickup location. Most requests made through Marina or OCLC are filled within two weeks.
You can use Marina to request materials from other Maryland public libraries.
Items obtained through Marina are free of charge.
Materials obtained though Marina may be renewed two times.
Only items currently checked in are "Requestable".
Library systems may not lend some types of materials through Marina such as new books, magazines, reference materials (non-circulating), or audio-visual items. Those materials will be listed as "Not Requestable" in search results.
How to search Marina and request materials:
- Click on this link Marina.(opens in new window)
- Type your library card number, without spaces, and press Enter.
- In the search screen that appears, type search terms and press Enter (or select Advanced Search).
- Select the desired title from the results and verify that at least one copy is marked "Requestable".
- Select a BCPL pickup branch and click Request.
How to check the status of Marina requests:
- Log in to Marina (opens in new window) with your library card number.
- Click on "My Account" at the top of the Marina screen to see a list of the requests made.
- Click on a request number to check the status of that request:
Pending -- The owning library is checking its shelves.
Shipped -- The item has been sent but has not yet reached BCPL.
Received -- The item has been received and will be available for pickup soon.
Returned -- The item has been returned to the loaning library.
Unfilled -- The item is unavailable through Marina.
- Close the status window to return to the search/request screen
- To cancel a request, please contact library staff in person, by phone, or via email (opens in new window).
To obtain materials not available through BCPL or Marina, request an OCLC Loan through any BCPL branch information desk or through our Ask a Question email (opens in new window).
There is also an online form accessible through Marina (opens in new window). Please provide complete information about the item you are requesting (author, title, edition, publication date) and any deadline that applies.
Each item requested through OCLC Loan is subject to a $2.00 BCPL processing fee plus any additional costs charged by the lending agency.
The usual loan period is 21 days, but the length of the loan period is determined by the lending library. Some lending libraries may require a shortened loan period or other restrictions on use of their material.
Items received through OCLC Loan cannot be renewed.
Some OCLC loans may have additional fees that are set by the lending library. Every attempt is made to find a lender that does not charge any borrowing fees. At the time you make the request, you will be asked if you want to pre-authorize additional charges up to a stated amount, for example, "up to $10.00". You may choose to limit our search for the item only to those libraries which have no fees. The Baltimore County Public Library Interlibrary Loan staff will contact a customer before submitting any request for material with a lending fee over $10.00.
Any unfilled OCLC loan requests are cancelled after 30 days. You will be notified of the cancellation. You may resubmit the request.
How many items may I check out and how long can I keep library materials?
Customers may check out up to 100 items (books, CD's) at a time, with the following two exceptions:
- DVDs -- Limit of 20 DVD titles of any type per customer
- Video games -- can have 3 at a time checked out
- Downloadables -- can have up to 6 at a time checked out from each collection (3M Cloud and OverDrive) for a total of 12
Library materials are loaned to you for 21 days, with the following exceptions:
- Book Club Kits -- 6 weeks
- Downloadable eBooks and audiobooks from OverDrive -- customers can set their OverDrive lending period to 7, 14 or 21 days.
- Entertainment or feature length DVDs -- 1 day
- Playaway Views, TV series DVDs, classic and foreign films on DVD -- 7 days
Most materials are eligible for 2 renewals.
Can I return items to another Baltimore County Public Library branch?
Yes, you can return Baltimore County Public Library materials to any Baltimore County Public Library branch. All branches except the Loch Raven Branch have a book drop. Items must be returned by closing time on the due date to avoid extended loan fees for overdue items. Entertainment or feature length DVDs (1 DAY DVD Movies) that are checked out on a Saturday need to be returned to a branch or any of our branch's book drops by 5 p.m. on Sunday to avoid late fees being attached to accounts.
Can I return items to a Maryland public library system other than BCPL?
Yes, all public library systems accept materials borrowed from any Maryland public library systems for return subject to that library's current fees, policies and procedures. It is recommended that you ask for a receipt showing the date, what materials you returned and what fees were paid, if any. Since the item must be sent from the other library system back to Baltimore County Public Library before it can actually be checked in, your library account may reflect that delivery delay. It is recommended that any item acquired through our Interlibrary Loan Service, including Marina and OCLC, should be returned to a BCPL branch.
How do I renew material and how many times can I renew it?
Renewals allow you to extend the original loan period for an item already checked out to you. Renewals are not always for the same length of time as the original loan period. The new due date is calculated from the date the renewal is submitted. Items eligible for renewal may be renewed up to two times (exception - OverDrive downloadables can only be renewed one time). If your item is already late when you renew it, appropriate late fee will be applied to your library account.
Materials can be renewed online or through automated phone system, SHELF HELP.
To renew online, log into your account (open new windows) or click here for renewal directions.
An item is not eligible for renewal if ...
- Another customer has placed a hold on the title.
- You have already renewed that item twice.
- You have extended loan fees over ten dollars ($10.00) for overdue materials listed on your library account.
- The item belongs to another library system.
- The item was Interlibrary loaned items through OCLC.
- The item was checked out through a Teacher Loan Card.
- The item is Reference and cannot be borrowed.
- The item is a downloadable e-Book from 3M Cloud Library.
How do I check my library account? How do I find out if I have any late fees on my library account? Can I pay fees online?
You can check your library account by calling or visiting any BCPL branch, by using the automated phone system, Shelf Help or log into your library account online.
To check your account online, click on the My Account area located at the top of any BCPL web page and log into your account by entering your library card number (barcode) and password, then click the Log In button. The default password is the last 4 digits of your phone number unless you changed it. For security reasons, you are encouraged to change your password the first time you log into your account. Click on the links on the left side of your account page to see you Items Out including their due dates and Requests for status of your reserves/holds. If you have any overdue items, they will be listed under the Fees link.
To review your extended loan fees for overdue items, click the Fees link on the left after logging into your account.
You can now pay your library fees online. Find out more...
To call a branch for help with fees, see the BCPL Hours and Locations to find the branch phone number. Once the recording starts, press 3 for library account information. To protect the confidentiality of your library account, you will need your library card number and you may be asked additional identification information.
To use SHELF HELP automated phone system to check your account, call 410-494-9063 then press 1. You will need your library card number to get to your account information. You cannot pay fees using Shelf Help but you can find out how much you may owe.
What is my password? How do I change my password?
A password is needed to log into your library account online, in addition to your library card number (barcode). Both password and barcode number are used in order to safeguard your privacy. The password defaults to the last four digits of the phone number listed in your account unless you changed it.
You may change your password by logging into your account. Click on the My Account area (opens in new window) located at the top of any BCPL web page. Enter your library card number (barcode), your password (Default is the last four digits of your phone number) and click the Log In button. If you have not changed your password previously, use the last four digits of your phone number. If you cannot log onto your account, call any BCPL branch and ask for assistance with resetting your password.
Once logged into your account, click on the Change Logon button at the bottom of the screen. Now click on the box before Change Password. Type in your old password (Default is the last 4 digits of your phone number.). Type in your new password and enter it again in the Verification box, then click the Save button.
What is a username? How do I create a username?
Customers who already have a BCPL library card/account can create a username. Having a customized username linked to your BCPL account will allow you to:
- Access to your library account with a username that means something to you and is easy to remember.
- Quickly log in at self-check machines rather than having to pull out and scan your card or memorize your 14 digit library card number.
- Quickly log into your online account, place holds, check your library account, renew materials and pay fees online.
Once created, your username is used to log into your account instead of your library card number. Creating a username does not change your password, which will still be needed to log into your account after creating a username. You will always have access to your library account with your library card number, even if you create a user name.
To create a custom username, follow the directions to create a user name.
What is the SHELF HELP automated phone service, and what can I do if it's not working?
Baltimore County Public Library’s automated phone service, SHELF HELP, allows you to get the following information about your library account by dialing 410-494-9063 on a touch-tone phone. You will need your library card identification number.
Once the recording starts:
- Press 1 for library account information and access to renewing items. You may check your account for any overdue items, extended loan fees for overdue items, items checked out and reserves.
- Press 2 for library hours.
- Press 3 for current library announcements and holiday closings.
If for any reason SHELF HELP is not working, it is your responsibility to renew your materials online or by visiting or phoning a branch.
How can I find a list of everything I have checked out from the library in the past?
The library does not automatically keep a record of what our customers have checked out in the past. When the item is returned to us and any outstanding fees or fees are paid, the information about that item is removed from the customer’s account. Our automated system is set up in this way to protect customer privacy.
However, BCPL now has the option to allow the customer to retain a permanent reading list that can hold up to 1000 titles. Customers must opt-in for this feature. For more information, see the next section on creating a Reading History list below.
How can I create list of what I have read?
You can set up your library account to keep a list of your past reading history. This list is kept within your personal library account but the library account software defaults to the "off" position so that you must turn the option on in order to enable the list to work. The list is not retroactive so it will not begin compiling your reading history until you set it to the on position.
You can find and turn on this option by following these steps:
- Visit the library's homepage at http://www.bcpl.info
- Click on the "My Account" area at the top of the page and then log in using your library card number (also known as your barcode). Type your library card number without any spaces between the numbers and use your Password, which is defaulted to be the last four digits of your phone number (unless you have logged in and changed it to something that you can more easily remember).
- Then click on the "Contact Information and Preferences" link, below the messages link, which is located towards the bottom of the My Account screen.
- Scroll down and you should see a "Maintain reading list" checkbox under Preferences. Simply put a check in this box and then click “Submit Change Request” button and you're all set.
This feature will add a "Reading History" to your library account information. Look for a Reading History link on the left side of your library account once you have enabled this option. The library will maintain a record of the titles you checked out (up to one thousand titles or up to one year) so that you can easily remember what you may have read from the library in the past year. Remember that this list is NOT infinite and only goes back the last one thousand titles or up to one year. You may copy and paste these titles into your own files if you think that you may want something more permanent or comprehensive than we are able to provide.