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, you may make appointments for contactless pickup of your library holds. We're excited to pilot this service and look forward to getting books and other materials into your hands!

Important Information about Holds Pickup

By Appointment Only

For the safety of everyone, please only come to the library if you have a confirmed pickup appointment. Pickup appointments must be scheduled 24 hours in advance to allow for processing. Our online appointment system will only allow you to schedule a pickup if you have holds that are ready.

Schedule your pickup | Manage existing pickup


We are piloting this new service at the Main Library starting in mid-June. We do not yet have a timeline for expanding this service to branch locations.

Phone and Pickup Hours

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

How It Works

1. Place your holds

  • Request your item(s) via our online catalog or by calling 617-349-4040.
  • We are currently only able to fill holds on Cambridge-owned items at the Main Library. Due to high demand, holds may take longer than usual to be filled.
  • You will receive an email when you have items ready for pickup. The subject line will read “Requested Item(s) Ready for Pickup.”

2. Make a pickup appointment

  • Once you have received your email notification, you may make an appointment to pick up your holds.
  • Schedule your pickup appointment 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.
  • Please call 617-349-4040 if you have a branch hold from March that was transferred to Main, as the online appointment system will not work for those items.
  • Appointments must be made at least 24 hours in advance to allow for processing. We unfortunately cannot accommodate same-day appointments.
  • If additional items become ready for pickup before your appointment, we will do our best to include them all in one bag. You will receive an email after you make your appointment that confirms your pickup date and time.

3. Pick up your holds

  • Your holds will be available for pickup only during your designated window.
  • On the day of your appointment, we will do our best to gather everything that is ready on our hold shelf for you. You do not need to make a second appointment if you receive a notification that additional holds have become ready.
  • Plan to park on the surrounding streets if you are arriving by car. The Main Library garage is currently closed.
  • Return any previously borrowed items to the book drop. Library staff cannot accept returns, fine payments or other items. A red bin will be available for oversize returns.
  • Please wear a face covering and maintain 6 feet of distance between yourself, Library staff and other patrons.
  • When you arrive, approach the pickup table and tell Library staff your last name or pickup alias. They will put your bag of items on the table for you to take. The items in the bag will already be checked out on your account.
  • In inclement weather, please come to the front entrance and state your name loudly through the glass door. Then step back from the door to allow staff to place your bag of items outside the door.
  • Please leave the pickup area promptly after claiming your items. Only one patron may be in the pickup area at a time.
  • Unclaimed materials will be returned to the shelves. You will need to request the item again if you are still interested in it.

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 for 72 hours before being checked in.

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 during holds pickup hours; there will be a designated bin in the pickup area. If those hours do not work for you, please contact us at to make other arrangements for oversize items.

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. Please contact us at for assistance.

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. You will need to provide their full name and library card number at the time you make your appointment so we can prepare their items. You may only place holds on your own 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?

On the day of your pickup appointment, we will do our best to gather everything that is ready on our hold shelf for you. You do not need to make a second appointment if you receive a notification that additional holds have become ready. As a courtesy to other patrons, we ask that you only have one active pickup appointment at a time.

What happened to my holds that were ready for pickup when the Library closed in March? 

In early June, Library staff have reached out to patrons who had items that were ready for pickup when we closed in March. As of July 8, all March holds have been cleared unless patrons were in contact with library staff. If you still want items that were cleared, place a new hold request online or over the phone (617-349-4040).

Can I place new holds?

Yes! You are welcome to place new hold requests online or over the phone (617-349-4040). We are actively processing requests, and we are beginning to receive deliveries from other network libraries. Our processing and delivery times are much longer than usual due to a high volume of requests and the backlog from the closure. We are making progress every day, and we appreciate your patience as we get caught up. 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.