Circulation Policy

Lending and providing access to library material is a core library service, and the Circulation Policy strives to balance collection accessibility to the community with stewardship of library resources.

The Circulation Policy outlines:

The Library’s Interlibrary Loans service is covered under the Interlibrary Loans Policy.

Accessing and borrowing technology are covered under the Technology Access Policy.

Library Card Registration

Anyone with a permanent address in Nova Scotia or who owns property in Nova Scotia may apply for a Halifax Public Libraries card at no charge. A full borrowing card will be issued when all identification and notification requirements have been met.  This includes two pieces of identification along with a working telephone number and/or valid email address.

Library cards that allow limited borrowing are available to those who do not meet all of the identification and notification requirements.  One piece of identification is the minimum requirement to register for a library card.

Identification used to register for a library card must provide reasonable assurance that the person presenting it is the person to whom it belongs. Acceptable identification will include the customer’s name (a signature alone is not acceptable); be current (no expired identification); and be the original version of the identification, with the exception of certified copies. 

The Library may make exceptions to the identification requirements, including in the following situations:

  • Customers registering for Borrow by Mail and Home Delivery services
  • Children, youth and adults residing in group homes, shelters, and other facilities
  • Customers physically unable to register in person
  • Adults in care

Children ages 13 and under must have an adult (ages 19+) sign for and take responsibility for a child’s library card and account. Children may have more than one library account, provided each account is signed for by a different adult who will take responsibility for the use of the card. When children re-register for a youth card, any fees related to unreturned material, borrowed when the cardholder was a child, will be transferred to the adult responsible for the child’s card.

Youth ages 14-17 may apply for a library card without a parent/guardian’s signature and will be asked to provide a parent/guardian’s name and telephone number as a contact.

Library customers ages 14 and older may normally only have one library account. Teachers, home-schoolers, daycare, preschool and community group leaders, etc., may register for Institution or Education Loan accounts.  Standard loans and renewals apply.  Institution and Education Loan accounts cannot borrow material through the Library’s Interlibrary Loans service.

Customers will be asked to update their account information annually; however customers are responsible for ensuring the information in their account is up to date.

Proof of Age

Proof of age from youth and adults may be requested in order to comply with film classification age restrictions and to provide access to age assigned computers.

Registration Requirements Summary

(ages 13 and under)
(Ages 14-17)
Adults / Seniors
(Ages 18+)
(5 items)
  • 1 piece of identification from adult signing for the card; child must be present in order for the card to be issued
  • 1 piece of identification
  • Youth will be asked to provide a parent/guardian name and phone number
  • 1 piece of identification
Full Borrowing
(60 items)
  • 1 piece of identification for the adult signing for the card and 1 piece of identification for child
  • A phone number and/or email address is required
  • 2 pieces of identification
  • Phone number and/or email address is required
  • Youth must provide a parent/guardian name and phone number
  • 2 pieces of identification
  • A phone number and/or email address is required
Proof of Age
  • Not required for children
  • In order to borrow films rated 14A youth must provide proof of age
  • Parents/guardians may also confirm a youth’s date of birth
  • Proof of age may be requested
Additional Requirements for Registration via Library Card Application Form 
  • Registration via Library Card Application Forms: once a fully completed form signed by an adult is processed, a child can borrow immediately with a limited borrowing card. The signing adult must present their own identification to allow full borrowing
  • A mailed and received card counts as one piece of a youth’s identification
  • To activate a card mailed via library card application form identification must be presented to library staff

Registration – Online 

Residents of Nova Scotia can register for a card on the Library’s website. Confirmation of a registration will be sent via email. Once the email confirmation is received, customers are able to access the Library’s digital collections and are able to place holds. To borrow from the Library’s physical collection, customers must provide the required identification to Library staff.   

Registration – Visitors 

Visitors to Nova Scotia may apply for a Halifax Public Libraries visitor’s card. In addition to the standard identification, notification and proof of age requirements, visitors must pay a fee of $40 in order to borrow material. The card will have an expiry date of 6 months after the date of registration, and can be renewed once.  A refund of $20 will be issued, provided all materials are returned and/or any outstanding fees are paid in full, and the visitor cancels their account in person within 90 days after the card expiry date.

Authorizing Access to Account

Customers can authorize others to have access to their borrower account, and can add or delete authorizations at any time.

To access the cardholder’s account, those who have been provided with authorized access will be asked to present acceptable ID or their own library card to match their name to that listed in the account. They are not required to have their own library account unless they are borrowing holds on behalf of the original requestor. If those with authorized access contact the library by telephone, their own library card is required to properly match them to the account.

Once the Authorized Access person presents acceptable ID or their own library card, they can do the following on a card owner’s account:

  • Access the borrowing information
  • Renew items
  • Place requests
  • Pay fees and obtain receipts
  • Report a card lost/stolen
  • Make changes to the borrower account information, with the exception of child accounts, where only the signing adult can assign/alter Authorized Access names on the account
  • Pick up holds for the card owner, with items checked out on the card belonging to the person with authorized access.  Exceptions: Interlibrary Loans must be checked out on the requester’s account.

Provided that the card has not been reported lost or stolen, access to the account will be granted to anyone with the card in hand, whether or not they are listed as having authorized access.

Use of Library Card

Signing the library card, a library card registration form, or by selecting “I agree” on the online library card application form implies that the card holder assumes full responsibility for the use of the card.  All cardholders are responsible for:

  • Materials checked out on their card
  • Promptly reporting changes in account information
  • Promptly reporting the loss or theft of a library card
  • Adding or removing those with authorized access to a library account
  • The use of the library card to access public computers and technology

An adult who signs a child’s card, library card registration form, or selects “I agree” on the online library card application, assumes full responsibility for the use of a child’s account. 

In lieu of a library card, identification can be shown and provided a match can be made to a library account, material may be borrowed.

Customers with a full borrowing card have a limit of 60 physical items that may be checked out on an account at any one time.  Customers issued a limited borrowing card may borrow up to 5 items. Home Delivery clients are exempt from the 60 item limit.

These limits do not include items borrowed from the Library’s digital collections. Digital content providers may have borrowing limits specific to those collections. 

Children 0-13 years of age are not permitted to place holds on or borrow films classified as 14A, 18A, or R (Restricted). Youth 14-17 years of age are not permitted to place holds on or borrow films classified as 18A or R (Restricted).

The Library is not responsible for any damage caused to audio-visual equipment by library materials.

Customers are responsible for monitoring their library card activity, including items checked out and due dates. Customers can access account information online on the Library’s website or by contacting library staff. Email and telephone notifications are provided as a courtesy. Customers with a working email address or telephone number listed in their account will receive either telephone or email notifications to alert them of the following:

  • Overdue notices
  • Holds notification
  • Lost items
  • When account charges exceed $100
  • Pre-notification of due dates (email notification only)

Holds and Returns

Items not available at a particular branch, out on loan or not yet available (new items on order), can be placed on hold and sent to a preferred Halifax Public Libraries location, provided that item allows requests. Customers will be placed on a waiting list and those with an email address or telephone number listed in their accounts be notified when the item becomes available. Requested items are held for a total of 7 days. Customers have the option to pause (defer) holds.

Most materials can be borrowed from and returned to any Halifax Public Libraries locations. Exceptions will be noted at the point of checkout.

The Library may also have various community-based return locations. Because these locations are not emptied daily, items may show as being checked out on library card after they have been returned. 

Halifax Public Libraries participates in the Libraries, Archives and Museums Nova Scotia (LAMNS) Borrower Anywhere / Return Anywhere (BARA) initiative, which allows library material to be returned to partnering public, community college or university libraries in Nova Scotia. Book Club Kits and Interlibrary Loan material borrowed from Halifax Public Libraries must be returned to a Halifax Public Libraries location. Other exceptions will be noted at time of checkout.

Loan Periods and Renewals

It is the responsibility of the customer to ensure that materials are returned on time in order to make them available to others.


Loan periods may be extended by renewing items. A renewal extends the due date by the same length of time as the original loan period.  The renewal period starts on the day the item is renewed, not the original date the item was due. There is a maximum of three renewals on each item.

Items may not be renewed if:

  • Other borrowers have requested them
  • They have been renewed the maximum number of times
  • They are part of the Library’s non-renewable collections

Summary of loan periods and renewals

Item Type Loan Period Max Renewals
  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Magazines
  • Kits
  • CDs & Audiobooks*
  • DVDs/Blu-Rays (over 300 minutes)
  • Uncatalogued Paperbacks
  • Uncatalogued Magazines
  • Other Special Collections (Pedometers, Energy Saving Meters/Power Cost Monitors, Nordic Walking Poles, Thermal Leak Detectors, Musical Instruments
7 days 3
DVDs/Blu-rays (300 minutes and less) 7 days 3
  • Child and Youth Browsing Collection Books
  • High Demand and Browsing DVDs/Blu-Rays (300 minutes and less)
21 days 0
7 Day Loan Books, Rapid Reads, Browsing DVDs/Blu-Rays (300 minutes and less) 7 days 0
Book Club Kits 42 days 0
Light Therapy Lamps 14 days 3
Radon Detectors 42 days 3
Recreation Facility Passes 14 days 0

*CD loan period may be reduced to 7 days based on demand

Vacation and Special Loan Periods

Vacation Loans:  Borrowers are entitled to two six-week vacation loans within a 12 month period.  Only renewable materials available for regular 3 week loan may be checked out for a six week vacation loan period.  Interlibrary loan materials do not qualify for vacation loans.

Special Loans:  A longer than normal borrowing period is available to those whose employment requires them to be away beyond a normal loan period. Customers requiring a special loan period must provide identification as to the employer, for example, Armed Forces card, DFO identification; company ID, International Seamen’s Union, union card, etc.  Special loans may also be granted in cases of illness, extended medical treatments, etc. and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Only materials available for regular 3 week loan qualify for a special loan period.  Interlibrary loan materials do not qualify for special loans.

Charges for Lost and Damaged Items / Replacement Cards


When a borrower reports an item as lost, the replacement cost will be charged to their account.Any item 30 days or more overdue will automatically be considered lost and the replacement cost will be added to the borrower’s account. If a lost item is returned, the replacement cost is removed.


The Library does not pursue payment for accidentally damaged materials that are returned by customers. Any payment for damaged material that a customer wishes to make will be gratefully accepted. Customers who pay for damaged material may retain that material. Items intentionally damaged will be charged the full replacement cost.

Missing Parts

Customers who return items with missing parts (kits, audio visual materials, for example) will be have a 7 day grace period to return the missing items without incurring lost charges. If the missing part is not returned within the 7-day period, full replacement charges will be applied to the borrower’s account and the item will be held for a total of 90 calendar days pending return of the missing parts. After 90 calendar days, the borrower must pay the full replacement charge

Replacement Costs

When replacement costs are being applied to a customer’s account the actual price of items will be charged wherever possible.Default prices will be used when the actual price is unavailable.

The following are default replacement costs that will be charged for lost / damaged / items with missing parts

Item Cost
Catalogued Books $20.00
Magazines, Comics & Uncatalogued Paperbacks $5.00
Music CDs $20.00
DVD/ BLU-RAY $25.00
Audiobooks $30.00
Reference/Special Collections Material $40.00
Be Fit Kits $65.00

In lieu of payment for materials, the Library will accept replacements for items that have been lost, damaged, or mismatched provided the replacement copy meets certain criteria, including format, title, edition, and condition.

Circumstances may warrant staff to waive fees. Library staff will apply fee waivers fairly and equitably according to established practices. When working with customers to resolve account issues, the Library may, at times, reduce borrowing limits.


 Refunds for Lost items or Mismatched materials paid for and subsequently found will be given if:

  • The customer provides a receipt, or verification of the payment can be found in the borrower’s Payment History AND
  • The item is found and returned complete within 90 days of payment.

Suspended Borrowing / Use of Card

Borrowers with more than four lost items or more than $100 owing in unpaid fees will be unable to borrow.  Renewals are permitted if the renewal limit has not been reached. Customers with blocked accounts will need to contact a Library branch in order to renew material.

Customers in breach of the Library’s Use of Library Facilities Policy may also be suspended from borrowing.


Confidentiality of customer information is guaranteed by the Library’s Customer Confidentiality Policy.

Revised: September 2020

Print this page