Frequently Asked Questions

What hours are you open?
The Palo Alto City Library system supports 5 branches, which have different hours. Check the hours and locations for each branch here.
Where are the library branches located and how do I get there?
Directions on how to get to each library branch are available from our map page, please see link below.
How many items can I check out and for how long?
Customers can have 99 items checked out on their card.  All materials are checked out for 4 weeks (28 days), except for DVDs, which are checked out for 2 weeks (14 days), and magazines, which are checked for one week (7 days).  NOTE: magazines can not be renewed.  Limits by material type are as follows:
  • 5 kids books-on-CD
  • 6 adult books-on-CD
  • 15 DVDs

Renew materials by logging into your account. Materials can be renewed three times if no one is waiting for them. Note that magazines are the exception - magazines may not be renewed.  If you do not have web access, you can call 650-329-2436 during open hours and ask to renew your materials.

All renewed items EXCEPT for DVDs will be due four weeks FROM THE DAY the items are renewed. DVDs will be due two weeks from the day they are renewed. If items are renewed EARLIER, they will be due SOONER.

How much are the fines & fees?  How can I pay them?
A list of the fines and fees, including those for overdue materials, lost items, interlibrary loan and other fees, are provided in the link below.  

Fines can be paid by cash or check at all libraries.  Credit cards are accepted at the Children's, Main and Mitchell Park branch libraries or online using your Visa or Mastercard.  You must have your library card number and PIN number to pay online!
What holidays are the libraries closed?

All libraries will be closed the following days or hours in 2015: 

  • January 1 for New Year's Day
  • January 18 & 19 for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • February 15 & 16 for President's Day
  • April 5 for Easter
  • May 24 - 25 for Memorial Day
  • July 3 & 4 for Fourth of July
  • September 6 & 7 for Labor Day
  • October 11 & 12 for Columbus Day
  • November 11 for Veteran's Day
  • November 25 all locations close at 6pm for Thanksgiving
  • November 26 for Thanksgiving
  • December 24 all locations close at 6pm for Christmas Eve
  • December 25 for Christmas
  • December 31 all locations close at 6pm for New Year's Eve

The Library may be closed on additional days around Christmas to match the City's holiday furlough period.


Can I return an item I checked out from one library branch to another?
Yes, any Palo Alto Library-owned material can be returned to any Palo Alto Library branch. The item will be checked in and returned to the owning branch.
NOTE: Link+ materials can only be returned or picked up at the Mitchell Park Library, 3700 Middlefield Rd., as of December 2014. 
What Library events or programs are coming up?
To find out what events are coming up, check out the Library wide calendar.  You can search with terms such as "storytime", "author" etc.  if you are looking for a specific event.
Is there a limit to how many requests or holds I can place?
Yes, there is a limit.  Our system allows our customers to have twenty (20) holds on their account. These holds include pending requests and requests that are fulfilled and await pick up on our hold shelves.  However, once you pick up a fulfilled hold you can place more. 
...meeting rooms for the public?
The library currently has the following rooms available for public use. 

Downtown Library -

Mitchell Park Library -

Two group study/work rooms (Fairmeadow & Greenmeadow) reservable by groups of two or more for up to two hours per day per group.

Rinconada Library -

Four small group study rooms (Crescent Park, Duveneck, Leland Manor & St. Francis) reservable by groups of 2-4 for up to two hours per day per group.

You can now reserve a room online through LiquidSpace!
Click the logo below to get started.

Downtown Library:


Mitchell Park Library:


Rinconada Library:


Contact the Recreation Department at 650-329-2261 to find out about other city facilities available for rental. forms?
The library does not provide tax forms, but we can help you get what you need.  We have computers you can use to download and print forms, found here: 

...computers for public use?
The library has Internet terminals at all of the branches.  Most branches are running Windows XP with both IE8 & Chrome web browsers and the Microsoft Office Suite 2003.  Mitchell Park library branch computers are running Windows 7 with IE, Firefox & Chrome web browsers, Microsoft Office Suite 2010, Photoshop Elements 11.0 and Premiere Elements 11.0.

We also loan out laptops for use within the library,  Chromebooks you can take home, and provide Wi-Fi hotspots at every location.  A Library card is required to borrow laptops or Chromebooks.

See the links below for more information. for homebound or disabled customers?
The library offers a variety of services for the disabled or homebound.  Details can be found here.
...any job openings at the Library?
There are jobs available on a regular basis for hourly positions, such as Library Pages and Hourly Librarians. Regular, benefited positions are less frequently available. Check the Human Resources' Job Opportunities page for the most current list of jobs (both hourly and regular).

...apply for a library card?  Can I get a library card if I don't live in Palo Alto?
Yes! Just fill out the online registration form (click on "Get a Library Card") and then come into a library branch within 30 days for your library card.  Be prepared to provide ID and proof of your current California address and you can get the card right away. There is no cost to get a library card.

You now have a choice of three different cards - each with a keychain card!  
Customers who wish to replace their old library card style with a new library card design can do so the first time for free. Future replacements of lost library cards will result in a $1 fee per replacement. the catalog from home?
The best way to find materials is to search the web catalog.
...find out what my Library PIN number is?
Your Library PIN (Personal Identification Number) is the last 4 digits of your phone number unless you've changed it from this default number.  A PIN allows you to access your record for renewals, holds, and to reserve a computer. If you would like to change your PIN please contact the library.

...renew my materials?
Renew materials by logging into your account. Materials can be renewed three times if no one is waiting for them.  If you do not have web access, you can call 650-329-2436 during open hours and ask to renew your materials.

All renewed items EXCEPT for DVDs will be due four weeks FROM THE DAY the items are renewed. DVDs will be due two weeks from the day they are renewed. If items are renewed EARLIER, they will be due SOONER.

...find out what DVDs, CDs or books on CD the Library has?
You can use the catalog to create lists of library materials limited by type, language or location.   Here are instructions and tips for searching the catalog.
...connect to the wifi at each branch library?
Wireless hotspots are available at every location during open hours.  Look for PA_OverAir_Library on your wireless device.   Accept the policy and enjoy 2 hours of access. After 2 hours, you can accept and go again.  No password or library card required.  Printing is available - see below. Find out more on the Wireless page.
...print to the wireless printer?
To print to the wireless printer located at Downtown, you will need to download drivers for the appropriate printer using the Internet Explorer browser.  Please note that only Downtown Library offers wireless printing.   Prints are 15 cents a page in black and white.

  • If you are NOT using an Apple laptop
    • using Internet Explorer (other browsers will not work), visit the printers page at 
    • Click on the branch library name
    • Click on "Connect" to add that branch's wireless printer to your system. 
    • For detailed page-by-page instructions (with screen prints) on how to add the wireless printers, please access the 6-page pdf to assist you with this process.  These instructions are for those running Windows XP or Windows Vista.
  • If you are using an Apple laptop, you may need to add the printer manually by IP address.  The IP address is:
    • Downtown =

Google Cloud Printing is available at the Mitchell Park Library.  Print anywhere, anytime, from within supported apps using your free Google account, then pick up your print job at the Mitchell Park Library.  Get the details on the Google Cloud Print web page.

...get a book you don't have?
In March of 2009, the Library began offering access to the LINK+ ("LINK Plus") system, which is a consortium of almost 50 libraries throughout California and Nevada sharing resources.  This service is free. 

Begin using Link+ here.

Neighboring library systems in Santa Clara County and San Mateo County may have an item that you would like to borrow. We recommend that you go to that neighboring system to register for a card and check out those items.  Please note: As of July 2011, the Santa Clara County Library System charges a fee for non-district residents to get a library card. UPDATE: Santa Clara County Library System will stop charging non-district residents a fee beginning July 1, 2015.  Read more.

As of July 2011, the Library no longer offers the costly InterLibrary Loan (ILL) service.  Find out which local area libraries offer ILL and how much they charge on this Bay Area ILL Service list.
...suggest that you purchase an item?
Please fill out the online form with your suggestion.  We can't promise that we will buy an item that is suggested for purchase, since our budget and shelving space are limited.

...donate materials to the Library?
Donations are accepted at the Friends of the Library Cubberley sale location. The proceeds from these sales benefit the library by providing increased monies for new collections, programs and services.

Donations for the collection are accepted under the provisions of the Donations for the Collection Policy, excerpted from the Palo Alto City Library Collection Development Policy, March 2011. a request?
You can place a request by selecting the item you are interested in and choosing "Request Item".  Customers can have 20 items on request, which includes items awaiting pickup, at any one time.

You can also request books not available at the Palo Alto City Library through our LINK+ service.
...reserve a public pc?
None of the currently open libraries offer reservations on public pcs.

...find out when and where your storytimes for children are held?
There are regular storytimes available for toddlers and for preschoolers at all branches. Check the Kids' Pages for details.
...volunteer at the Library?
The library has a volunteer program and appreciates community involvement. Find out more about Volunteering at the Library.

Show all Categories