Informational Alert | Coronavirus Updates
NOTICE: Fall hours for contactless pickup of library holds at Main, Central Square, O’Neill, and Valente are now in effect. No appointments required. Request items 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 LibraryCentral Square Branch, O'Neill Branch and Valente Branch during modified service hours.

No appointments are required, but you must have holds ready for pickup.


Holds Pickup Hours


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 - Main Library only)

Main Library: Appointments are now optional for Main Library holds pickup. 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.

Schedule your Main Library 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. 

Central Square Branch, O'Neill Branch, Valente Branch: Holds pickup at branches is a walk-up service.

4. Pick up your holds

Please wear a face covering and maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself, Library staff and other patrons. If you do not have an appointment, you will be asked to provide your library card.

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.


Frequently Asked Questions

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 before being checked in.

What can I expect when I arrive for my pickup?

The pickup will take place outside the library. At the Main Library, there will be two lines: one for patrons with appointments and one for walk-up service. At the Central Square Branch, there will be one line for all patrons outside the Franklin St. entrance.

For appointments (Main Library only): 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 or pickup alias 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, and oversize items can be returned to a designated outdoor bin during holds pickup hours.The Central Square Branch, O'Neill Branch, and Valente Branch will be accepting returns in an outside bin during branch pickup hours.

Other branches accept returns on limited weekdays. Days and times are posted on the event calendar. If you are unable to return your items due to limited branch return hours, we are happy to extend your loan periods upon request.

Please allow one week for the items to be removed from your account. 

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 walk-up 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. Please note that appointments are not offered at branches and are optional at the Main Library. 

I have pending holds that are supposed to be sent to a Cambridge Public Library branch. How can I get them if my local branch is not offering pickup service?

Please change your pickup location to the Main Library, Central Square Branch, O'Neill Branch or Valente Branch in your online account if you would like to get these through contactless pickup. If you are only interested in pickup at a closed branch, 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.