What if I don’t have a library card?
If you do not have a library card registered with HCLS, you may request a virtual account at https://polaris.hclibrary.org/polaris/logon.aspx. You will be assigned a temporary barcode, which is good for six months. That barcode, plus the PIN you create, gives you instant access to digital content and the Library’s physical collection. Once branches re-open, please bring proof of address so staff can issue a physical library card.
What if I don’t know my library card barcode or PIN?
Go to the My Account logon page and click on the appropriate link:
Forgot your barcode or username? Your barcode or username will be sent to the email address in your library account.
Don’t know your PIN/password? Reset it here. You will be sent a temporary PIN or password. Once you have used it to log into your library account, you can change it in the Change Logon section. For “Old Password,” please enter the temporary password sent by email.
Holds, Returns, and Fines
Can I return items?
Borrowed items may be returned to the outside book drops. Items will remain on your account for ten to twelve days while they are quarantined for seven days, then checked in.
- Artwork can be returned to the Central Branch lobby (no appointment necessary).
- DIY items can be returned to the Elkridge Branch DIY side entrance (no appointment necessary).
- Toys and oversized items may be returned inside the lobby (no appointment necessary).
What if I am unable to pick up my holds or return a book that is due? What if I miss my appointment?
If you are unable to pick up your holds, consider asking a family member, neighbor, or friend to pick up your items. Any items not picked up during the pre-scheduled pickup time will be held for three more days. After three days, the items will be quarantined, then put back into circulation.
I don’t want to pick up my holds, but I don’t want to go to the bottom of the queue.
In your account, you can suspend your holds until you are ready.
What about fines?
HCLS is now fine free, with the exception of fees and fines for items in the DIY and art collections and for replacement costs and processing fees for items not returned.
What items can be requested and picked up at the Library?
Most physical materials are available for requesting and pickup, including books, DVDs, music CDs, audiobooks, and Launchpads. To request items from the DIY or art collections, please call the lending branch:
- Artwork: Central Branch at 410.313.7800
- DIY (e.g., tools, sewing machines, baking supplies): Elkridge Branch at 410.313.5077
Why are items I returned still showing as checked out on my account?
Returned items will take ten to twelve days to be checked in due to the quarantine process.
How do I request a title not owned by Howard County Library System?
You may place a request via Marina, the statewide interlibrary loan service. Get started here.
Can I bring in items to be donated?
The Library cannot accept donations at this time. Please drop donations in the green Better World Books donation drop-off boxes in Library branch parking lots. Do not bring donations to Library branches or leave them by the front doors or book drops.
Visiting the Library
Can I visit the Library now?
All Library branches remain closed. Contactless holds pickup occurs in branch lobbies. Do not visit any branch unless you have received notification that your materials are available, and you have scheduled an appointment. Please visit hclibrary.org for updates.
When will the Library reopen to customers?
Timing will depend on current health and safety guidelines, as well as availability of PPE and social distancing materials. The safety of our staff and customers is our top priority. Please visit hclibrary.org for updates.
Can I just use the restroom? Come in and print one thing? Check my email?
We cannot provide any building access to members of the public for any reason at this time.
Can I reserve a meeting room at a branch?
Meeting room reservations remain suspended during our closure and will be gradually reintroduced after reopening. Please visit hclibrary.org for updates.
Are you going to be holding classes for children, teens, and adults?
Health and Safety
Do I have to wear a mask to pick up my items on hold?
You must wear a face covering when you are picking up your items.
Do staff have to wear a mask at work?
All staff are required to wear masks while in Library branches. Staff are provided aprons and gloves to wear while handling quarantined materials.
Is the Library quarantining returned items?
- Yes. The Library quarantines all returned materials for seven days as of September 9, 2020. Read more here.
- According to the REALM Project‘s first round of lab testing for COVID-19 on five commonly borrowed library materials (hardback book cover, paperback book cover, plain paper pages inside a book, plastic protective book covering, and DVD case), the virus is not detectable on those materials after four days.
- The second round tested children’s board books, glossy paper pages, magazine pages, Braille paper pages, and archival folders. Tests showed the virus was not detectable on those materials after four days.
- The third round tested cases for talking books and DVDs, storage (i.e., storage bags and tubs in which we transport library materials) and plexiglass, which could be partitions in display cases and other areas. Results show that after five days of quarantine, the virus was not detected on the storage bag (flexible plastic) or the DVD. The storage container (rigid plastic), plexiglass, and the USB cassette all showed detectable virus at five days. Day five was the final timepoint tested.
- It is known that the virus spreads via airborne particles. If someone who is infected coughs, sneezes, or otherwise ejects airborne particles, and you are in that spray pattern, you have been exposed to the virus. The secondary way is when an infected person transfers that virus to an object, like a book or a delivery bin, through either an airborne way or through touching their nose or mouth, then touching the item. Research is ongoing in an attempt to quantify how likely one could catch the virus through touching those items. It should be noted that at this time, there is no quantifiable data about the level of exposure that will cause a person to get sick.Using these test results, libraries across the nation are making decisions on what they need to do to ensure the safety of their staff and customers. Like many COVID-19 responses, these decisions vary somewhat across systems and jurisdictions.It is well documented that a very viable way to kill the virus quickly is to use an acceptable cleaner and wipe down items. Given the extremely high volume of totes and circulating materials, this is not the most efficient method for HCLS when considering time or cost. Effective September 9, 2020, HCLS moved to a seven-day quarantine period for all items.
- Disinfecting with chemicals (or putting them in microwaves) is not required and can result in damage to the materials.
What are you doing to protect the safety of customers and library staff?
Library staff are following current safety recommendations, including wearing masks, practicing social distancing with other staff and customers, frequently washing hands, and disinfecting work spaces. All returned materials will be quarantined for four days before they are checked in and made available for the next customer.
Contactless pickup means no contact between staff and customers. Requested items are left in bags on a designated table. If you notice other customers at the pickup table, please remain outside until the previous customer has departed.