We understand that you may need extra time to return your items during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are temporarily extending the time before we suspend your account for overdue items to 31 days. An item will be considered lost and charged to your account when it is six weeks overdue.

Get started with a Library card

Get started with a Library card

Learn how to sign up for a Library card and use online Library resources, including PressReader and Mango Languages. Videos available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin Chinese, Somali, Amharic, Tigrinya, Oromo, Korean and Arabic.

Library Card FAQs

How do I get a Library card?

Apply for a Library card online and get instant access to e-books and online resources when we verify your address. You do not need a physical Library card to use Library resources or check out materials. If you would like a physical Library card, stop by any open branch with valid ID.

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.

Parents and guardians of children under 13, you can sign up for a free Library card for your child. Just submit the online form to get instant access to Library materials and resources.​

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)

If you do not live in Seattle, but work, go to school or own property in our free service area, we will ask you to provide proof of employment, student enrollment or taxpayer status.

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
  • Tacoma Public Library
  • Timberland Regional Library

After you complete the online application, we will ask you to show us your reciprocal library card 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?

Everyone is welcome at our Library locations, and we offer many services for people who do not have a Library card.

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?

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

Please bring your completed application to any open Library location.

How do I borrow and return items?

Check our Hours & Locations for open hours and book return locations. You can use your card to borrow books, DVDs and other printed items. 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.

How long can I keep items I borrow?

Different items have different checkout periods. You can renew items you check out up to three times if no one else is waiting.

Physical items:

Service or format

Checkout period

Limit

Books (except Peak Picks)

3 weeks (21 days)

50 physical items at a time

CDs

3 weeks (21 days)

50 physical items at a time

DVDs

2 weeks (14 days)

50 physical items at a time

Magazines & newspapers

3 weeks (21 days)

50 physical items at a time

Peak Picks books

2 weeks (14 days)

50 physical items at a time

Wi-Fi hotspots

3 weeks (21 days)

50 physical items at a time

 

Digital media:

Service Checkout period Limit
Flipster magazines 3-7 days (varies by title) 100 - 500 simultaneous checkouts per title (varies by title)
Freegal music No due date Download 5 songs per week/ stream 3 hours per day
Hoopla video 72 hours 15 checkouts per month across all media (subject to daily Library limits)
Hoopla music 7 days 15 checkouts per month across all media (subject to daily Library limits)
Hoopla comics 3 weeks (21 days) 15 checkouts per month across all media (subject to daily Library limits)
Kanopy video No due date 5 per month
OverDrive e-books and audiobooks Up to 3 weeks (21 days) 25 checkouts and 25 holds at a time

The checkout period for interlibrary loan and reference loan items varies.

We offer due date reminders via email, text, phone, Library Elf or RSS to help you keep track of your items. Learn more on the Notifications page.

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

We do not charge daily late fines, so there are no charges for any item you return late, once you return it. When an item is six weeks overdue we consider it lost and charge you for the replacement cost. We remove the charge for replacement when you return the late item.

E-books and audiobooks you download are checked in automatically when they are due, with no late fines.

If you lose an item let us know as soon as you can. If you are unable to pay the replacement cost, please contact us to discuss your options.

We will temporarily suspend your Library account when an item is two weeks overdue. When your account is suspended you will be unable to check out more items or use OverDrive, Kanopy or Hoopla. You can still place holds on physical items (but will be unable to check them out), use library computers, printers and scanners and access online resources when your account is suspended.

You can pay online with a credit or debit card through PayPal.

We also accept checks by mail at:

  • Attention Borrower Payments, The Seattle Public Library, 1000 Fourth Ave., Seattle WA, 98104

See our Fees and Lost Materials page for more information.

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

Please contact us if you lose your Library card and we will let you know how you can get a replacement. 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.

 

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.

Why don’t you charge late fines?

Thanks to the 2019 Library Levy, we were able to eliminate late fines. Late fines discourage people who cannot afford them from using the Library, and daily late fines have been proven to be ineffective in encouraging people to return items on time. As part of our commitment to equity and access, we try to remove any barriers to Library use. Many other major Library systems have eliminated late fines, including Chicago, San Francisco, and Denver. In our region, the Sno-Isle library system has not charged late fines for over 35 years, and Kitsap and Spokane county library systems have eliminated late fines more recently. To learn more about why we eliminated late fines, visit our No More Late Fines page.

What happens if I keep something past its due date?

We do not charge daily late fines, so there is no cost for keeping something a few days past the due date. We still ask that you return items on time, as others are often waiting to use them. You may renew most items up to three times if no one else is waiting. If an item is six weeks overdue, we will temporarily suspend your Library account until you return it. Suspended accounts cannot check out more items or use some of our digital media services. We consider items 31 days overdue lost and charge you for the replacement cost.