Chat Online with a Librarian Telephone Reference: 718-230-2100, option 5

Search Tips

Important! Please read this information before you start searching...

  • A record shows information about an item that the library owns.
  • An item can be a book, CD, magazine, or a group of any of these.

Searching by Author, Subject, Title, ISBN number, Keyword and Advanced Search:

  • Author Search [ex. Angelou, M.] Use this method to find records for items if you know the correct spelling of the author's last name and first initial.
    Click the Author link, enter last name, first initial into the Search for box and see matching items come up for that name.
    HINT: If you're unsure of the spelling, scan the list that does appear - you may find the correct spelling and matching items in the list.
  • Title Search [ex. Kitchen god's wife]
    Use this method to find records for items if you know the exact title.
    Click the Title link, enter the title words in exact order into the Search for box and see all items with a title that match what you want to find.
    HINT: If library only has one match one record will display. If the library has none or more than one a list of titles will display; choose a title from that list.
  • Subject Search [ex. "depression"]
    Use this method to find items using an "official" library label.
    (This will result in a smaller amount of on-target items than keyword searching.)
    Click the Subject link, enter a Subject word into the Search for box and see all items that have officially been labeled by the library with that word.
    HINT: Exact official subject words are often strange - try various words for searches or click on the suggested "official" subjects that come up; they appear as hyperlinks on the list.
  • Keyword Search [ex. "computer programming"]
    Use this method to find items when you are unsure of an official subject word or when you don't know an exact title.
    Click the Keyword link, enter a word or a phrase into the Search for box and view a large list of items that have that word or phrase somewhere in each record. HINT: Keyword searching does an exact match of a phrase.
    HINT: Too many records? Use "Advanced Search" to narrow down your search results.
  • Advanced Search
    Use this method to find items when you don't know exact titles, names or spellings; find items by language, date, or material type (CD, Book, cassette, etc.) and find items by using combinations of words.
    Click the Advanced Search link. Enter a word or phrase into the Words box. You can change the language, date or material type to narrow your results. After pressing the Enter button, view a list of items that match the choices you entered.
    HINT: To see items for records with more than one topic, combine words with (and), (or), (&) ( not). HINT: To see items for records when you are unsure of a spelling or ending use an asterisk in the search word, (e.g. Wom*n to find women, woman, or womyn), (e.g. child* to find child, children, childless).

More Search Techniques

Boolean Searches
Boolean searching can be used in conjunction with keyword and advanced searching to better target your searches. You can construct search "statements" to narrow the scope of your search results. The principles of Boolean searching are defined below.

Multiple words are usually used as one phrase. For example, search "United States Supreme Court" or "New York City Council". To search multiple words not as a phrase see Operators (below).

Words may be right-hand truncated using an asterisk. Truncation is helpful when you don't remember the correct spelling of a long name or subject. Example: fyodor dost* to get works by or about Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Use "and" and "or" between words to broaden the search. Use "and not" to exclude words. Parentheses group words together when using Boolean operators. Examples: large print and mystery, baseball and biography, (annotated bibliography) and child*, (alaska or canada) and (adventure and not vacation).

Use "near" to specify words close to each other, in any order. Use "within X" (where X equals the amount of words between the words) to specify terms that occur within a certain # words frin each other in the record. Examples: California near university, america within 3 econom*.

Specify fields to search using field abbreviation. Fields available for this database are a: (author), t: (title), s: (subject), and N: (note.) Examples: (a:twain) and (t:huck*), (a:united and a:states), and (s:handicapped or s:disabled).

My Account

How do I access my account?

Click the "Login" button located on the top right side of the page. Type your library card barcode number and your PIN in the appropriate boxes; If you don't have a PIN, leave that field blank. You will be prompted to create a new PIN.

Please note: Our Telephone Notification Server (TNS) will only make phone calls to the following area codes: 201 (North Jersey), 212, 347, 516 (Nassau), 551 (North Jersey), 631 (Suffolk), 646, 718, 914 (Yonkers / Westchester), and 917. If your area code is different, select email notification option to receive your notices.

What is a PIN? How do I get one? What if I forget my PIN?

You need a PIN to access your library account. Your PIN must consist of a 4 digit PIN (no letters or symbols). To create a PIN, enter your library card barcode into the "My Account" log in screen, leave the PIN field blank and hit "Login". Enter your desired PIN twice on the next screen and hit "Submit". This creates your PIN.

If you forget your PIN, you can complete the Pin Reset Request form. You may also visit any BPL location with your library card and a form of identification, and ask a staff member for assistance.

If you log into your library account online for the first time and have trouble accessing it even when leaving the PIN field blank, you may already have a PIN. Oftentimes library staff have users create their PINs at the Circulation Desk when they first get their library cards.

How does the Reading History feature work?

The Reading History feature maintains a list of all items you have checked out. This feature is not turned on by default; you need to click the "Start saving my reading history" link to activate it. To opt out of this feature at any time, delete all items in your list, then click the "Stop saving my reading history" link.

Where can I see the items I have rated?

You can share your opinions of books and other items available from the library by using the customer ratings feature. Once you've logged in to My Account, you can rate any item from 1 to 5 by clicking on the appropriate star next to the title. A record of all items that you have rated will be kept in the Ratings section of My Account until you choose to delete them.

View more information on ratings.

Lost your library card?

If you lose your library card, please report it immediately to the nearest BPL library. You are responsible for items borrowed on your card. Parents and guardians are responsible for items checked out on their child's card. To replace your lost library card, adult and young adult cardholders will be charged $2, senior citizens and Juvenile card holders will be charged $1. You will not be able to renew items or place holds without your BPL Library barcode number and PIN number. We do not provide BPL library card numbers or PIN numbers through email or over the telephone. Please replace your card as soon as possible.

When I navigate from one page to the next in the Catalog, I keep seeing a security warning window. How do I stop that window from appearing?

On your internet browser, go to Tools, select Internet Options, and then select the Security tab. Find the Display Mixed Content option; switch it from Prompt to Enable and the message will go away.


What is a hold?

A hold reserves a library item for you. If the library item is unavailable at your local library it can be delivered there for your convenience. Patrons with valid BPL library cards may place a hold through the online catalog. If you have not already set up a PIN for your account you must do so first. Go to My Account and follow the directions for setting up your account PIN. Holds may be placed on all books (except reference books), videos, DVDs, and CDs.

What can I put on hold?

Holds can be placed on any circulating item that is owned by BPL with the following exceptions: items that are reference only (LIB USE ONLY status); items that belong to special collections such as Service to the Aging, the Brooklyn Collection, Literacy Centers, the Kidsmobile and the Bookmobile; items that belong to BPL locations that are closed for renovation; and issues of magazines and journals. In addition, those with a Juvenile Restricted card cannot place holds on any items other than Juvenile (children's collection) materials.

How do I place a hold?

  1. One way is to go to the library catalog's Search page. From the search results, select the title by clicking directly on the name.

    Once you see the full record, click on Place a Hold. You will then be prompted to login using your library card barcode and PIN. The next screen will show you the title you're requesting and prompt you for a location to pick up the item and a "cancel if not filled by" (expiration) date. After placing the hold you will be logged into your account. When you are finished viewing your patron record, remember to Logout.
  2. The second way is by logging into "My Account." This method allows you to place multiple holds. Click on "Search the Catalog." Follow the search instructions above. When you click on Place a Hold, you will need to select the location to pick up the item and a "cancel if not ready by" (expiration) date. After you click on "Place Hold" and see the confirmation screen, click on "My Account" to return to your account. Then click on "Search the Catalog" or "Catalog Home" to perform another search without logging out of your account.

How do I know when to pick up a hold?

We will notify you by email, text message, or telephone when it is time to pick up a hold. Select your notice preference by logging into "My Account" and clicking on "Account Details" > "Contact Preference."

I placed a hold but never received a pick-up notice. What happened?

Occasionally library users do not receive holds notices because of incorrect information in their accounts. Please make sure that we have your correct contact information.

If you chose to receive your holds notices by email, your email account may be treating the BPL messages as junk mail and automatically sending them to your junk mail folder. If you have a junk mail filter in your account, you should be able to enter BPL's email address as a "safe" address so that our messages appear directly in your Inbox. BPL sends its notices from

If your information is correct, but you still have problems receiving library notices, please visit any BPL location and speak with a staff member.

I received a notice saying that my hold could not be filled and I should "consult a librarian." What does this mean?

Generally a holds cancellation notice is sent when the last copy of a requested item is determined MISSING. What this means is that when you placed the hold, the catalog showed that we owned at least one copy of the item. However, when it was searched for, it could not be found and its status was changed to MISSING. This triggers a holds cancellation notice.

If you requested a book and it was the last copy in the BPL system, you can visit your local library and request an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) for that title. BPL Interlibrary Loan policy allows you to request books only.

You will be prevented from placing a hold if you have $15 or more in fines on your account.

I have a Juvenile library card (ages 12 and under) and can't put some items on hold. Why not?

There are two kinds of Juvenile library cards: unrestricted and restricted. Having a Juvenile Restricted card means that you can check out and place holds only on Juvenile (children's) items. All Juvenile materials have the letter 'J' at the beginning of the call number (J FIC R, J VIDEO S, J 973.7 M, etc.).

If you have a Juvenile Restricted card and want to change it, you must ask your parent or guardian for permission. Your parent or guardian must then contact the library to make the change. When you turn 13, you will have a Young Adult card, which has no restrictions.

How long will it take for my hold to arrive at my local library?

If your hold is the only hold on the item and BPL owns at least one copy that isn't already borrowed (CHECK SHELVES status), the wait should be one to two weeks.

(If you need the item within a day or two, it is best not to place a hold. Search the BPL catalog and visit the neighborhood library nearest you that has the item on its shelves. You can call ahead to make sure that the item will be there for you when you visit.)

If there are already multiple holds and all copies are checked out, the wait will be longer.

How many holds can I place at one time?

There is a limit of 10 active holds per user.

I borrowed an item that now is on hold for someone. I want to renew it, but your system is blocking me because of the hold. Why can't I renew my copy?

Renewals are not permitted on titles that have holds on them. Once a hold request is placed, our system blocks that title from being renewed even if the catalog shows available copies at the libraries.

I placed a hold, and the "not needed after" (expiration) date is about to pass without my hold being filled. I still want this item and I don't want to lose my place in line, so can my hold expiration date be extended?

The "not needed after" expiration date cannot be changed from "My Account." You can request a change using the "Contact Us" form on our website, or visit any BPL location for assistance.

You also have the option of logging into "My Account," canceling the hold, and then immediately replacing it with a later "not needed after" expiration date. However, by canceling the original hold, you will lose your place in line if there was more than one hold on the item.

I placed a hold, and I see that the "not needed after" (expiration) date is about to pass. My item is now IN TRANSIT. Can the hold expiration date be extended a few days while the item is on its way to my local library?

There is no need to extend the "not needed after" (expiration) date in this case. As long as your item is IN TRANSIT before the hold expires, you will be notified when the item reaches your local library.

I received my hold pick-up notice, but I won't be able to pick up the item before the holdshelf period ends. Can my local library keep it for an extra day or two?

It is library policy to keep requested items on holdshelves for 7 business days. Staff at all library locations run computer procedures daily that result in the clearing - both electronically and physically - of any materials that have been in ON HOLDSHELF status for more than 7 business days.

What happens if I freeze a hold?

You can freeze your holds if you think your item will arrive for you during a time when you will be unable to pick it up. Clicking the "Freeze" checkbox next to your item will allow other holds to be filled without you losing your place in the hold queue. When you are ready, uncheck the freeze box and you will continue moving up the hold queue like normal. Remember to click the "Update List" button to save any changes made to your holds list.

You cannot freeze a hold if:

  • The item has other available copies in the catalog.
  • The hold is already in transit to your pickup location or on the holdshelf for you.
  • The item is being processed and you are next on the hold queue.
  • The hold is more than 255 days old.

Renewing Materials

How do I renew my books and other items?

  • Renew in person at any neighborhood library.
  • Renew online by going to My Account. You will need to enter your barcode and PIN number. If you don't have a PIN, leave the field blank and you will be prompted to create one.
  • Renew by phone by calling 718-230-6700. Have the barcode number on your library card and the materials you want to renew ready.

You may renew materials as long as you do not owe us $15 or more in fines, and no item you're trying to renew is reserved by another user.

Fines FAQ

How did I get fines on my library card?

Fines occur when library materials are lost or returned late. For a list of fines and fees, please consult our Borrowing Materials page.

Why is my card no longer active? How can I reactivate it?

Your library card is deactivated when you accrue $15 or more in fines. To reactivate your card, you can pay in full or pay to reactivate your account (which will pay off all but $14.99 in your fines).

How do I repay my fines?

You can repay them by credit card online, by logging into My Account and clicking "Fines". The "Fines" tab will only be displayed if you have fines at the time of account login. We accept Visa, Mastercard and Discover. You can also repay your fines with cash at the ABC kiosks located in our libraries.

What if I have more questions?

If you have any more questions, or if you need further assistance with repayment of fines, call Telephone Reference at 718.230.2100 (select option 5) or contact us.

What do the ratings mean?

***** Excellent. Highly recommend.
****_ Very Good. Exceeds expectations.
***__ Good. Met expectations but did not exceed them
**___ Fairly low opinion. Recommend only with reservations.
*____ Extremely low opinion of this item. Would not recommend.
_____ Never been rated. No recommendation available.
Color Coding: Yellow - group rating. Blue - your rating. Grey - needs to be rated.

If more than one user has rated an item, the system automatically averages the results.

Who rates items in the Catalog?

Anyone with a BPL Library card can rate items in the Catalog. The rating stars may appear in three different ways:

  • If the item has never been rated by any Library user it will look like this:
  • If you are logged in to the Catalog and have previously rated an item it will appear with blue stars:
  • If an item has been rated by other Library users, or you are not logged in to Your Library Record, the stars will be yellow:

How can I rate an item in the Library Catalog?

To rate an item in the Catalog you must first Login to My Account.

If you are not logged in, you can click on a star in an item's record to get to the login screen. (If you use this path to login, it will be easier to return to the item you want to rate.)

Once you are logged in, you can rate an item by clicking on the specific star that represents your "vote." For example, to give an item four stars you would click on the fourth star:

How can I change a rating I have given to an item?

  • If you are not already logged in, Login to My Account.
  • Click on Ratings.
  • Locate the item you want to change and click the star corresponding to the rating you would like to assign.

How long do my ratings stay in the Catalog?

Your ratings will remain in the Catalog and in your record until you delete them from the Ratings list. You may wish to keep items in your Ratings list as a way to keep track of your favorites or what you've borrowed in the past.

My Lists (save & export)

There are two ways to save items to a list.

  1. My Lists

    The My Lists feature allows you to create and save lists of books, movies, journals, etc... You can use it to make a wish list of items you would like to read, or perhaps a reading list to share with friends, or to just keep track of interesting titles. My Lists are saved within your account so that you can access them at any time.

    How to Use My Lists

    To use My Lists just do a search like you normally would. On the search results screen click the checkbox next to each item you'd like to save, then click the Save to My List button. You will then be prompted to login if you haven't already, and then to select one of your lists, or to create a new list. When you are viewing an individual record you can also click the "Save to My List" button to add it to your list.

    Whenever you want to access your list just login to My Account and click the My Lists tab. Then click the title of the list to see all the items on it. If you want to request one of the items on your list just click the title to bring up and record and click the Place a Hold button.

    If you have Reading History turned on, you can remove items from your list as you read them. To remove anything you've checked out from your My Lists simply open the list and click the "Remove Reading History Titles" button. The items that are on your list that you have checked out will be erased.

    Items within My Lists can be exported to email or to the screen for printing. Items can also be moved between different lists.

  2. Temporary List

    If you just need to create a temporary list which is not saved within My Account then use either the Add Selections to List or Add All to List buttons in the search results screen, or the Add to List button in the record screen, to add items to a list. After you exit the catalog website or close your browser, the list of items will no longer be available.

    If you have saved items to a temporary list then the View List of Saved Records button should appear. Click that button to access your list. You will then have options to export the list to email or to the screen for printing.

Text Messaging FAQs

How do I sign up for text messaging?

When you sign-up for a new card, select "Text Message" as your Notice Preference: Get a Library Card.

If you already have a BKLYN library card, you will need log in to My BPL to change your notice preference.  Log into MY BPLwith your library card barcode and PIN (or username and password if you have already created an account). Under My Settings, select Personal Information. Under Contact Preference, you can update how you would like to be notified (Phone, E-mail, or Text Messaging).  

Once you have selected “Text Message” and inserted your cell phone number in either the Phone Number or Alternative Phone fields, you will receive a text message requesting OPT IN confirmation. Please respond with BKLIB OPTIN.

Will I be charged for messages I received?

Brooklyn Public Library provides this service free of charge, but your cell phone carrier may charge you based on your service plan. Check with your cell phone carrier if you're not sure.

How many messages will I receive?

There is no limit on the number of messages you may receive on a particular day. Messages may arrive any day of the week, starting at 8 am EST.

What types of messages will I receive?

After the first opt in confirmation request, you'll receive notices about holds you've placed, as well as reminders when your items are due or have become past due. To renew items respond with BKLIB RENEWALL

If I sign up for text messaging, will I still get library notices by email, telephone or postal mail?

No. You can select only one notice preference.  If you sign up for text messaging, you'll receive only text messages.

How do I opt out of text messaging?

Simply sign into your My BPL account on the library's website and change your notice preference to email or telephone.

What if I have more questions?

If you have any more questions, or if you need further assistance with text messaging, call Telephone Reference at 718.230.2100 (select option 5) or submit a question online here.