Policies on teens and library cards

There has been discussion around the profession about library cards being issued to teens.

Does your library have a special policy for teens? Do you think  you need one? You can always contact us at CMLE Headquarters to help you write policies for this, or any other issue in your library!The initial question:

“I am looking for more information on libraries who issue library cards to teens without requiring a parent’s permission. At my library, anyone 17 or under is required to have a parent or guardian come to the library and sign a permission form before a library card can be issued. I know many libraries don’t require a parental signature for teens to get a library card, and I was hoping to get some more information on this.

1. What is the policy at your library regarding issuing teen library cards without a parental signature?
2. Are there any restrictions on these types of cards (how many items or what kind of materials they can check out, etc.)?
3. Have you run into any problems with these types of cards (teens not returning materials, large overdue fines, etc.)?”

Here are the responses from a few different libraries:

Here is what we do:

1. They must be 13 yrs or older & have a picture ID of some sort.  Parents are sent a letter notifying them of their child’s application.

2. They have the same restrictions as all of our new users which include for the first 6 months:
  • Limit of 6 items checkout
  • Limit of 3 holds
  • Limit of 1 overdue item
  • Card restricted if fees reach $5 or more
After 6 months an upgrade to a regular library user card is given.
3. Not that I am aware of.

My library system doesn’t restrict cards based on age at all, and requires no parental signature or consent to get a library card. We also treat cards as separate and individual, with no parental responsibility for anything a child’s card might accumulate in fines and fees.

So long as someone knows their address, we can mail their card to them and then they can bring it back it to fully activate their card (all mailed cards are restricted to one item checkout until they come back in the possession of the person we mailed them to.)

The restrictions on the card is that under-17s have their Internet access filtered, but otherwise can check out any type or rating of material up to the regular item limit.

Our teens and children are sometimes good and sometimes not good at returning things on time (or at all), but, to the best of my knowledge, we don’t have massive problems with lost or late items with our child and teen cards. And we’re pretty forgiving of a lot of things while they’re still young and learning.

The last wrinkle is that parents can ask that we cancel a child’s card, and we’ll take care of it, but the kid can then ask us to make them a new one right afterward, and we’ll do it.

I haven’t had complaints about the way things are set up here. A couple of surprised people that our cards are that wide open, but no complaints.


Our library system allows any age to get a regular library card. Anyone under 18 must have a parent or guardian sign. However, we did just create new Student Cards last year. Kids between 8 and 17 can get them without a parent signature, but they do have to show something from their school. That could be a report card, a student ID card, or a note on school letterhead, to name a few. It has really made it possible for more kids who come to the library (but never with a parent) to get a card. There are NO FINES on student cards, but they can only check out three items at a time. They do get access to all of the online databases, ebooks, and Freegal. So they really get a lot with that student card. If they lose a book, their card does get blocked though. I’m not sure how many cards we have had to block thus far.


1. Our teen cards are for patrons 13-17 and do not require a parent signature.  If they are 16 or older, they must provide a state-issued ID or driver’s license.  First cards are mailed, replacement cards are given at the time. Children’s cards are for 0-12 and do require a parent’s signature.

2. The only restriction on a teen card is that they cannot check out R rated movies.  Children’s cards cannot check out movies rated PG-13 or R.  All cards can check out up to 50 items at a time.  New cards can only check out two items, then up to 50 once they receive their card in the mail.
3. In general, I don’t think we have more of a problem with teens returning materials than any other age group.  There will always be patrons who don’t return their materials.
I’m a school librarian, and I completely appreciate the recent developments in our county public library system – they have uploaded student and faculty ID numbers from our district into their system, giving us all access to electronic and print materials. I may have this next part wrong, but I think there are no late fees, yes lost or damaged materials fees, a limit of 10 print books at a time, 3 CDs/DVDs, I don’t know of a limit on eBooks, and students can opt out of having their photo taken at the library when they go to get a physical card made library in person based on this student ID number. They can magically access any electronic materials without having to appear at the library in person.