Getting a Library Card & Borrowing from Howard County Library System’s Collection

You don’t need a library card to visit Howard county Library System (HCLS) to read books or magazines, conduct research on a computer, or attend a class.

A library card gives you a special privilege. You may use it to borrow books, magazines, toys, computer discs, and DVDs from any HCLS branch. It also gives you access to research databases and downloadable ebooks and audiobooks. If you live, work or attend school in Maryland, you may apply for a library card from HCLS.

Library Card Application
Checking Out
Loan Periods
Lost and Damaged Items
Renewing Items
Returning Items
Requesting Items
Other Library System’s Collection

Library Card Application

You may register online or get a form at the Customer Service & Research Desk at any HCLS branch.

If you are younger than 13 years of age, your parent or legal guardian will need to sign your card application. By signing, parents or guardians agree to pay all charges for overdue, lost, or damaged materials borrowed on their children’s cards. There’s no charge to obtain a library card, or replace a lost card.

We will ask to see photo identification with your current name and address when you apply for a card or pick it up.

When you register in person, your card will be ready in about five minutes. When you register online, your card will be ready in a couple of days.

What You Need to Know About Your Library Card

Keep your library card in a safe place. Let us know if you lose it. We will “block” your card to stop anyone else from using it.

You may borrow 30 items each time you visit HCLS, with a maximum of 60 items checked out on one card.

In cases of extremely high demand, some branches may limit borrowing for a particular type of item. Please check with an Instructor if you have any questions. Any book marked “Research” may not be borrowed. We keep these books in the branches for everybody to use.

You must be 13 to borrow fiction DVDs.

You will receive a receipt when you borrow materials. The receipt lists the titles of everything you have checked out. It also tells you when you must bring the materials back. This is known as the “due date.” Keep your receipt handy.

You may view your library card record online. You will need your library card barcode number and PIN (personal identification number).

You may return materials to the Customer Service & Research Desk or the book drop of any HCLS branch.

Checking Out

You may borrow up to 30 items at one time from HCLS’ collection.

If you forget your card, any identification with your name and address is an acceptable substitute.

Loan periods

Books, magazines, toys 21 days
fiction, children’s, foreign language 7 days
non-fiction 21 days
CDs 21 days


You must be at least 13 years of age to borrow DVDs. We rely on parents or legal guardians to monitor the check-out and viewing of HCLS DVDs by minors (13-17 years of age).

When you borrow materials, we will give you a receipt that lists each title and its due date. Please use this receipt to remind yourself when the materials are due.

Using your library card number, you may also check your borrowing account by phone using TelAccount (410.313.7810) or through the online catalog.

Lost and damaged items

Materials are to be returned in the condition in which they were borrowed. The full replacement cost and a processing fee will be charged for each item lost, damaged, or stolen.

We accept replacement copies of lost or damaged books that meet specific standards. Please consult a Customer Service Specialist before you obtain a replacement copy to ensure that it will comply with our standards.


If materials are not returned or renewed by the due date, fines are charged for each day an item is late.

While we make every effort to remove returned materials from your account within hours of receipt, during peak times, weekends, and after holidays it may take longer to clear items. We encourage customers to give items to staff at the Customer Service & Research Desk for immediate removal from their accounts.

You may pay fines in person at any HCLS. Unpaid fines will be added to your account.

If you owe $10 or more in fines, you will not be able to borrow or renew materials until the fines have been cleared from your account.

Daily Fines (charge per day per item)

$1 Fiction DVDs
$0.20 all other materials

Seniors (65+) pay half the fines on all overdue materials.

Maximum fines (charge per item)

$10 DVDs
$6 books, CDs, toys, Easy Access materials
$2 paperbacks or magazines

Renewing Items

If you have not finished enjoying your HCLS materials, it may be possible to extend the due date for an additional loan period, calculated from the date of renewal.

An item may be renewed twice unless another borrower has reserved it or your account has an unpaid balance of $10 or more.

Renew materials in person at any HCLS location, by phone using TelAccount (410.313.7810), or online. When using TelAccount or the catalog, please have your library card and PIN available in order to complete the transaction.

The fines on overdue materials renewed through TelAccount or the catalog will be added to your account.

Returning Items

DVDs must be returned to an HCLS branch. Other materials may be returned to any public library in Maryland.

You may ask HCLS Customer Service Specialists to check your borrowing record after your return materials to determine if you account is clear. Staff will provide receipts for returned materials or a list of materials still on your account at your request.

Bookdrops, located at each branch, are open 24 hours.

If a bookdrop is jammed or full, please do not force the materials into it or leave them unattended. You will not be charged fines if you return the materials to the Customer Service & Research Desk as soon as possible and inform staff of the problem. Customers will be charged $5 for each item left outside book drops or by the doors of HCLS buildings.

Requesting Items

Items available at any HCLS branch may be transferred between branches for free. To request this service, please call or visit staff at the Customer Service & Research Desk.

Holds & Reserves

If you are looking for a popular title, it is possible that all copies will already be on loan to other customers. In that case, your name can be placed on a “hold/reserve” list so that when copies are returned, one will be held for you at your local branch. Items can be reserved by calling or visiting your local branch or by finding the title in the catalog and then clicking on the “Place Request” button within the item’s catalog record. You may reserve up to 99 items. If we have your email address on record, we will notify you by email at no charge (you may also choose to receive your notice via the U.S. mail for a $0.50 fee, payable at pick-up). To add your email address to your record, please call or visit the staff at any Customer Service & Research Desk.

Borrowing from Other Library System’s Collections (Inter-Library Loan)

If we do not own a specific item, it may be found via Marina (a system for requesting items from other Maryland public libraries). Items may also be located through Maryland university or out-of-state libraries. There may be fees associated with materials obtained outside the Marina network. Customers will be notified of any charges and asked to approve them before requests are completed. Fees, if any, are payable at the time of pick-up.

Access Marina through our web site, ask for assistance at the Customer Service & Research Desk, or call Interlibrary Loans at 410.313.7733 Monday through Friday, 9 am – 4 pm.