Circulation Policy


Full and Limited Privilege Cards

To obtain borrowing privileges, applicants must provide verification of identity and eligibility. Full or limited borrowing privileges may be granted, depending on residence and the identification provided. 

Full Borrowing Privileges – Resident. These library cards are valid for two years. For those residing in the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, or St. Charles County. Adult applicants who meet residency or property owner requirements and provide photo identification and proof of current address are eligible for full borrowing privileges. 

Full Borrowing Privileges – Nonresident. These library cards are valid for one year. Adult and minor applicants who: 

  • Work in the City of St. Louis and have documentation proving this. Additional identification showing proof of City employment is required annually, such as the most recent paycheck stub showing city earnings and taxes paid or an employee badge or ID showing the employee name and the business name 
  • Attend school in the City of St. Louis and live in the Missouri counties of Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Warren, or in the Illinois counties of Clinton, Jersey, Madison, Monroe, and St. Clair. Additional identification is required annually that shows proof of City school attendance, such as student school ID, current report card or transcripts, or a dated letter from school on letterhead 

Limited Borrowing Privileges. These library cards are valid for one year. Adult applicants without photo identification or without a permanent address are eligible for limited checkout of two physical items, access to digital collections, and computer use. 


Individuals under the age of 18 (minors) need permission from a legal guardian to obtain a library card. The legal guardian assumes responsibility for items, fees, and use of the minor’s library card. Exceptions are made for people who are at least 16 years of age and:

  • are emancipated or no longer live in the home of a parent or legal guardian, and have documentation proving this, or 
  • are signing as the parent/guardian for their child’s library card, or 
  • are legally married, and have documentation proving this.

A child must be present to receive a library card, and parents/guardians must provide identification for themselves. A library card may be issued without a parent/guardian present if the child has appropriate documentation from the parent/guardian and the parent’s/guardian’s signature on the library card application. Parents/guardians may choose a restricted or unrestricted card for each child. 

Restricted: checkout only of children’s materials, which includes print items, DVDs, CDs, and electronic resources. 

Unrestricted: full library privileges, including checkout of all circulating materials and electronic resources. 

Full Internet privileges may be granted by the parent/guardian for either category of borrowing privileges. 

Other Card Types 

  • Education/Nonprofit: Employees of schools, daycare centers, senior citizen residences, shelters, and social service agencies in the City of St. Louis are eligible for borrowing privileges designed to provide service to students and residents at those facilities. Some item types may not circulate to these facilities. These cards are valid from August 1 to July 31 of the next year.
  • Company: Businesses in the City of St. Louis are eligible for up to four cards for employees per department. Businesses outside of the city will be charged a fee.These cards are valid for one year.
  • Courtesy: Borrowing privileges may be granted to visitors or guests of the Library by the Chief Executive Officer or a designate, who will determine the expiration date.
  • eCard: People eligible for free borrowing privileges who have never had an SLPL library card or those who want access to only digital content and online services may apply for eCards through the Library’s website. These cards are valid for two years and may not be used for reserving Library computers. These privileges can be converted to a personal library card by showing identification with name and address at any Library location.
  • Computer Pass: People not eligible for a free library card may obtain a computer pass for access to the Library’s internet computers. The pass is valid for one month and may be used only for reserving computers.
  • Friends Membership: People whose permanent address is outside of the St. Louis metro area and do not qualify for a free card may purchase a membership from the Friends of the St. Louis Public Library. One of the benefits of being a Friend is a library card. 


Most cardholders may borrow up to 75 items. That total includes limits on certain item types. Those with limited borrowing privileges may borrow 2 items. Loan periods, checkout limits, and number of renewals vary according to item type, but are generally seven days or 21 days. Materials may only be renewed if no other customer has placed a hold on the item. 


Overdue materials

The library does not charge overdue fines. Materials checked out will be automatically renewed until (1) they reach the maximum number of renewals; (2) they are on hold for someone else; or (3) the customer’s account has a balance over $50. 

Lost and damaged items 

Fees for lost or damaged items include the cost of replacing the item. Fees may be forgiven if the loss or damage of library materials was caused by fire, flood, or theft; a copy of a police, fire, or insurance report that supports the loss is required. Checkout is allowed until charges reach or exceed $50. Having any balance on an account does not result in the loss of any other library privileges. 

Liability for items checked out due to fraudulent use of a library card (by someone other than the cardholder) may be limited to $50 if the owner of the card reports the card lost within 30 days after an item becomes overdue. 

  • At 42 days late, most overdue materials are assumed lost and the replacement cost is billed to the account. If the assumed-lost materials are returned, the replacement cost will be removed from the account.

Lost library card 

A $1 fee may be charged to replace a lost library card. 


  • Van Service: The Adult Outreach Department oversees mobile outreach that provides limited library services to residents of senior citizen group residences and social service agencies. Locations may receive monthly or twice-monthly visits. 
  • Books By Mail: This is a service available to residents of the city of St. Louis who are confined to their homes or residence because of a physical disability, extended illness, or advanced age. The free service is offered to homebound customers who have no one to pick up Library materials for them and who do not live at a Library Outreach delivery site. Up to twenty books at a time can be requested and are delivered to the readers and returned by the United States Postal Service. 
  • Home Delivery: For residents unable to leave their homes and not eligible for van service, the Library can deliver materials to their doors on a monthly basis.
  • Interlibrary Loan (ILL): Materials not owned by the Library may be borrowed from other libraries through ILL. The service is offered free of charge, and customers may have five ILL requests and five ILL items checked out at any one time. Loan periods, renewal policies, overdue fines, and replacement fees are set by the libraries supplying the items.

(Revised 8/2/2021)

Print this page