Informational Alert | Coronavirus Updates
NOTICE: Contactless holds pickup is available at the Main Library. Request items and schedule pickup appointments online, by phone at 617-349-4040 or by email at

Contactless Holds Pickup

While our buildings are still temporarily closed to the public, we are offering contactless pickup of library holds outside the Main Library.

Starting August 3, contactless pickup is available both by appointment and as a walk-up service during the hours below.


Main Library Pickup Hours

  • Monday-Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. - 7 p.m.
  • Thursday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Call 617-349-4040 for assistance during pickup hours

Note: if you need phone assistance before holds pickup hours call 617-349-4032: Monday-Wednesday, 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and Thursday-Friday, 8:30-9:30 a.m.


How It Works

1. Place your holds

Request your items via our online catalog or by calling 617-349-4040. Due to high demand, holds may take longer than usual to be filled. 

2. Wait for your pickup notice

When your hold is ready for pickup, you'll receive an email notice with the subject "Library Request Pickup Notice."

3. Schedule your pickup (optional)

When your hold is ready, schedule your pickup via our online appointment system or by calling 617-349-4040. You will only be able to schedule an appointment if you have holds that are ready. On the day of your pickup appointment, we will check out and bag everything that is ready on our hold shelf for you.

Starting August 3, appointments for holds pickup are recommended but not required. If you have an appointment, you will enjoy a faster pickup when you arrive; however, appointments are in high demand and availability is limited. If you opt for walk-up service, please be prepared to wait outside the library while your items are being checked out.

4. Pick up your holds

When you arrive for your pickup, there will be two lines: one for appointments and one for walk-up service. Please wear a face covering and maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself, Library staff and other patrons.

If you miss a scheduled pickup appointment, your unclaimed items will be returned to the shelves at the end of the day. You will need to request the items again if you are still interested in them.


Questions and Answers

What measures are you taking to protect the health and safety of patrons and staff?

Library staff members are following best hygiene practices recommended by public health authorities. Returned library items are being quarantined for 96 hours before being checked in.

What can I expect when I arrive for my pickup?

The pickup will take place outside the library. There will be two lines: one for patrons with appointments and one for walk-up service.

For appointments: Your library items will be checked out, bagged and ready to go when you arrive. Please tell staff at the door your name or pickup alias.

For walk-up service: Please tell staff your name and provide your library card. Please be prepared to wait for a few minutes while your items are being checked out.

Can I return my borrowed library items?

The Main Library outside book drop is now open for returns. Please allow one week for the items to be removed from your account. Oversize items can be returned to a designated outdoor bin during holds pickup hours.

Branch libraries and branch book drops remain closed. If you are unable to return your items due to branch book drop closures, we are happy to extend your loan periods upon request.

I don’t know exactly what I want. Can you select some titles for me to pick up?

Yes! We are always happy to recommend books to our patrons. Call 617-349-4040 during our phone hours to speak with a staff member who can help you. You can also fill out a form to find Your Next Great Read on our website at any time.

Can I pick up holds for a friend or family member?

If you have their permission, you may pick up holds that are ready for another patron. For appointment service, you will need to provide their full name and library card number at the time you make your appointment in the “Notes for Library staff” field. For walkup service, you will need to provide the other patron’s library card.

I scheduled a pickup appointment and have now received a notice that I have additional holds ready for pickup. Do I need to make a second appointment?

No, you do not need to make a second appointment. On the day of your pickup appointment, we will check out and bag everything that is ready on our hold shelf for you. As a courtesy to other patrons, we ask that you only have one active pickup appointment at a time.

Can I place new holds?

Yes! You are welcome to place new hold requests online or over the phone (617-349-4040). Our processing and delivery times are much longer than usual due to a high volume of requests and the backlog from the closure. Once your new hold is ready for pickup, you will have 10 days in which to schedule an appointment to pick them up outside the library.

I have pending holds that are supposed to be sent to a Cambridge Public Library branch. How can I get them if the branches are closed?

Please change your pickup location to the Main Library in your online account  if you would like to get these through contactless pickup. If you are only interested in branch pickup, we recommend that you freeze your holds in your online account until your branch reopens or begins offering pickup service. Holds sent to a closed branch may be canceled to respect our sharing agreements with owning libraries.