Library Card FAQs

How do I get a Library card?

You can apply for a Library card online or at any branch. After you apply, show your photo ID and proof of address (like a piece of mail) at any branch to get your card.

We accept many forms of ID. If you do not have a permanent address, we have options for you, including shelter ID cards. You can get a Library card regardless of your immigration status.

Kids under 13 can come to any branch to sign up for a Library card. We have applications for children available in Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Vietnamese.  You can print and fill out the children’s library card application ahead of time if you like. A parent or legal guardian needs to sign the form.

Who can get a Library card?

If you live, work, go to school or own property in one of our free service areas you can get a free Seattle Public Library card. This includes:

  • The cities of Seattle and Bothell
  • King County, except the towns of Yarrow Point and Hunts Point (see our reciprocal use agreement with the King County Library System)

You can also get a free Library card if you have a current Library card from:

  • Everett Public Library
  • Kitsap Regional Library 
  • Pierce County Library System
  • Puyallup Public Library 
  • Sno-Isle Regional Library System
  • Timberland Regional Library

Please bring your library card with you in order to qualify for a free Seattle Public Library card.

If you do not qualify for a free card, there are two types of paid Library cards:

  • Visitor cards cost $25 for people living in Seattle for a short time. They are valid for three months, and cardholders can check out up to five items at a time.
  • Non-resident cards cost $85 for Washington state residents who live outside the Seattle area. They are valid for one year, and cardholders can check out up to 50 items at a time.

What can I do with a Library card?

Get a Library card today and get free access to everything we offer.

What can I do without a Library card?

We welcome everyone to visit one of our 27 locations to read, study, think or meet. In our Library branches you can:

Where can I use my Library card?

You can use your Library card at any of our 27 Library locations in Seattle and online. If you have a Seattle Public Library card, you can also get a free Library card with these regional Library systems. Just bring your Library card, photo ID and proof of address to the Library you would like to use.

  • Everett Public Library
  • Kitsap Regional Library 
  • Pierce County Library System
  • Puyallup Public Library 
  • Sno-Isle Regional Library System
  • Timberland Regional Library

Seattle residents can also get a free library card from the King County Library System whether or not they have a Seattle Public Library card, under the terms of our reciprocal use agreement.

Can I get a Library card for my business or non-profit?

Yes. We offer Library cards for businesses, non-profits, day care centers and educational organizations. Contact us for an application. 

Can I apply for a Library card in a language other than English?

We will be adding information about how to apply for a card in these languages soon.

You can find out how to get started and fill out an application online in:

  • Spanish (Español)
  • Mandarin Chinese (中文)
  • Vietnamese (Tiếng Việt)
  • Somali (Soomaali)

How do I borrow and return items?

You can use your card to borrow books, DVDs and other printed items at the self-checkout kiosks or service desk at any Seattle Public Library location. Borrow up to 50 items at a time, in addition to digital downloads. You can borrow up to 25 OverDrive e-books or audiobooks at a time.

You can return items you borrow to any Library branch during open hours, or after hours at any book drop. All book drops except the ones at the Central Library are open 24 hours. 

Central Library book drop hours:

Monday - Friday
6 am - 10 pm

Saturday - Sunday
9:30 am - 6 pm

How long can I keep items I borrow?

Different items have different checkout periods:

  • 21 days: Books (including e-book and audiobook downloads), magazines, newspapers, Wi-Fi hotspots and CDs
  • 14 days: DVDs and Peak Picks book selections
  • Varies: Interlibrary loan, reference loans, streaming music, comics and videos from hoopla

We offer due date alerts via email, phone, Library Elf or RSS to help you keep track of your items. Learn more on the Manage Your Library Card page.

How much will I be charged if I return something late or lose an item?

Late items cost 25 cents per day, for a maximum of $8 per item, with the following exceptions:

  • Items borrowed via interlibrary or reference loan cost $1 per day, up to a maximum of $15 per item.
  • E-books and audiobooks you download expire automatically when they are due, with no late fines.

If you lose an item let us know as soon as you can and we will ask you to pay the replacement cost.

If you owe $15 or more in fines or fees we will ask you to pay the balance before you can borrow more items. You can pay online with a credit or debit card through PayPal, or come into any branch with cash or a check. We also accept checks by mail.

See our Fees and Lost Materials page for more information.

How do I replace my Library card if I lose it?

Stop by any of our 27 locations to replace your card. Replacement cards cost $1.

Your new card will have a different barcode number from your old card. This change will affect your Library account. Here are some tips to make it easier to start using your new card:

Library account

  • If you have created an online account, you can continue using your user name to log in at spl.org.
  • If you do not have a user name, you can use your new barcode number to log in.
  • You will be able to see your current holds and checkout history for books, CDs and DVDs after you request a new card.

E-books and downloads

  • Be sure to download all the digital materials you have checked out before you request a new card. 
  • You will not be able to see your current digital holds and history for a few days while we move that information to your new card.
  • You can use your new card immediately to check out digital materials and place new holds.

Library Elf

Add your new barcode to your Library Elf account.

Computer reservations

Ask a Library staff member to move your computer reservations to your new card.

If you have a question or need help, Ask Us or call 206-386-4636.