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You've found the item you want to borrow. Now what?

Here are answers to the most common questions we hear about checking out books, renewals, holds and fees. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Borrowing

What do I need to checkout materials from the library?

Customers must have a library card in order to check out materials. We have some materials such as reference items that may not be checked out.

How many items can I check out?

You may have a total of 75 items checked out at any one time. You can have no more than 20 DVDs checked out at one time.

How long can I keep an item after I check it out?

Items are due 14 days after you check them out. See Renewal section below.

What if my local branch doesn’t have the item I need?

Harris County Public Library offers a free service that allows customers to reserve a copy of a County-owned title that is not currently available. If the item is available at another HCPL branch, the item will be pulled from the shelf and sent to your local branch for pick up. If the item is currently checked out, you will be placed on a waiting list for the item. See Holds section below for more information.

What if I lose an item I checked out?

Replacement costs will be charged for lost items. If a lost item is found within a year of payment, the customer can request a refund. The original receipt will be needed.

Can I use my HCPL Knowledge Card to checkout items from other libraries?

Yes, but only libraries that HCPL has reciprocal borrowing agreements with. We currently have agreements with Bellaire City Library, the Montgomery County Memorial Library System and the Pasadena Public Library System. This means that you can use your full-service HCPL Knowledge Card to checkout most items at those libraries. Because HCPL and these libraries have integrated their online catalogs, you can also place holds on many items from those libraries and pick them up at any HCPL location. 

There are some restrictions on the types of materials that can be borrowed. For full details, visit the Reciprocal Borrowing Agreements section of the Library Use Policies page. 


What if I need it longer than the 14 day loan period?

In most cases, if no other customer has requested an item you have checked out and there are no blocks on your record, you may renew the checkout. You can renew your items over the phone, in person at any branch, or using your online account.

    How many times can I renew items after I have checked them out?

    Most items have a limit of 2 renewals. DVDs are limited to one renewal. Renewal loan periods are the same as the original loan period. Items will not be renewed if there is a hold for another customer on that title or item. Renewal is also not permitted if there are blocks on a customer’s record. If the item is overdue, the fines will post once it is renewed.

    How do I renew items online?

    To renew online:

    1. Log into your account using your library card and PIN
    2. Click the Checkouts / Renewal tab
    3. Select the item you would like to renew
    4. Click the Renew

    Note: the ability to select more than one item to renew at the same time is not yet available on the new website. 

    I tried to renew an item online, but the system would not let me. Why?

    There are several reasons your renewal request did not go through:

    • You reached the maximum number of renewals for the item
    • Another library customer has placed a hold on the title or item
    • There is a block on your record.

    Can I renew items over the phone?

    Yes. You can call any HCPL branch during library hours or 24/7 using our automated TeleCirc system.

    You will need:

    1. Your library card number - The 14 digit number on your Library Card which begins with 24028.

    2. A PIN (Personal Identification Number) - This is the four-digit number you selected when you received your library card. If you did not request a PIN number, contact one of our branches.**

    3. A touch-tone phone


    To use TELECIRC:

    Call TeleCirc: 713-747-4763.

    Following the welcome message: Enter your library card number, followed by the # key.

    Telecirc will ask you to select a language: 1 for English, 2 for Spanish

    Telecirc will ask you to enter your PIN followed by the # key.

    From the menu select the number for the transaction you need:

    Press 1 to Renew Titles.

    You will be asked to choose:

    1--to renew by title, 2--to renew by barcode, 3--to renew all

    Renewal may be blocked if more than $25 is owed on the account.

    Items without barcodes cannot be renewed through Telecirc.

    Titles requested by other customers cannot be renewed.

    Interlibrary Loan items cannot be renewed.

    Please stay on the line until all items have been renewed.

    Telecirc will list the new due dates when the process is completed.

    Press 2 to list titles checked out on your account.

    Press 3 to list or cancel titles waiting for you at the library.

    This option allows you to find out what items/titles are waiting for you and the branch location.

    Press 4 to hear current fines.

    Press 5 to list your overdue items.

    Press # to repeat Options.

    Press * to exit.


    How do I reserve an item?

    Reserving materials or placing "HOLDS" is a free service provided by Harris County Public Library. You may request copies of items that are owned by HCPL but not currently available.


    • Through catalog workstations in any branch
    • Through Internet access to the Library's catalog
    • Through a Holds request given to a staff member
    • Through a phone request to a staff member


    • The barcode number from your Harris County Public Library card
    • Your PIN (Personal Identification Number). You chose a PIN when you applied for your library card.
    • Computer and Internet Access.
    • You can access our system at any Harris County Branch Library or from your own computer with Internet access by going to


    • To do a basic search, enter your search term(s) and click the search icon button.
    • You will receive several results from the HCPL catalog. If none are what you are looking for, you can click the Refine search option which will give you more results and offer filters to narrow them down. When you find the item you are looking for, the "Place Hold" button is right there for each title. 
    • Click this button on each item you want to request.
    • At the Request Confirmation screen, select your Pickup Location from the pull-down menu (click the arrow to the right and scroll through the menu to find your preferred branch) and click Request.
    • You will get confirmation that your request has been placed.

    Where are my holds?

    If your holds are listed as available in your account, they can be retrieved from the hold shelf at the pick up branch listed. 

    How soon will I get my hold?

    The time to receive a hold will vary depending on if copies are available immediately, or if there is a wait list on the item. HCPL makes all efforts to make your wait for your item as short as possible. 

    How will I know my hold is available?

    You will receive an email or telephone notice to alert you that your hold is available. This is set up when you sign up for a library account and can be changed at any time.

    How long will my hold be on the shelf?

    Typically, your item will remain on the hold shelf for 7 days on which the library is open. After that time, the hold is considered to be expired and will be shelved at the library or sent to fill another hold.

    How many holds can I place?

    Customers may place a maximum of 20 simultaneous holds per library card.

    My hold is ready for pick up, but I don't want it anymore. How do I cancel the hold?

    Please phone the pickup location, so that staff can cancel the hold manually and remove the item from the hold shelf.


    What are the fines for overdue items?

    DVDs are $.25 per day and most other materials .10 per day. The maximum overdue fine per item is $3.00.

    What happens if I owe fines?

    Any financial obligation of $25.00 or more posted on the customer's financial record will cause the patron's record to be blocked in the circulation system. Borrowing privileges only become available again when the balance owed is less than $25.00.

    How can I pay my fines?

    You can pay online using a credit or debit card, or visit any HCPL branch location in person with one of the payment methods below:

    • cash
    • personal and business check (with identification) 
    • cashiers check
    • money order 
    • traveler's check

    Pay library fines online now