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Eligibility for Library Service Policy (5.201)


The Bellingham Public Library provides circulating materials for public use. This policy defines who is eligible for a Bellingham Public Library card and any limitations to borrowing privileges of physical or digital materials. The Library Board of Trustees authorizes the Library Director to develop and implement effective procedures and guidelines in accordance with the policy.


Resident: A person who lives, works, owns property or attends school in Bellingham.


1. The library offers services to the public without requiring a library card. Anyone may visit the library to:

  • Browse and consult the library’s print and online collections
  • Attend free programs open to the public
  • Reserve community spaces
  • Use library computers to access the Internet and/or other in-library online resources
  • Sign on to free wifi
  • Request assistance with answering informational or research questions.

2. Library card holders have access to additional services. These services include:

  • Borrowing and reserving library items
  • Accessing online e-titles and subscription services

3. Library cards are available at no charge to residents of Bellingham with verification of identity and eligibility.

The following individuals and groups are eligible for borrowing privileges:

  • Individuals who live in Bellingham, their spouses and underage dependents.
  • Individuals who work, own property or attend school in Bellingham, their spouses and underage dependents.
  • Residents under age 18 with a parent or guardian signature. Residents under age 18 without a parent or guardian signature may apply for a limited use card. Residents under age 18 who are demonstrably free of parental control can apply for a full use card without a parent or guardian signature.
  • Individuals taking responsibility for the borrowing activity of schools, day care and non-profit organizations located in Bellingham.

Applicants can obtain more specific information on verification of identity and eligibility on the library’s public website and/or by asking a library staff member.

Appropriate arrangements will be made for those who are unable to sign for themselves or who are physically unable to come to the library.

Library card holders of the Whatcom County Library System may use their cards to access materials and services at Bellingham Public Library locations and vice versa.

4. Library cards are available at no charge to card holders of other public libraries within Washington State with verification of identity and eligibility.

  • Applicants must provide a public library card from their local jurisdiction and photo ID.
  • Borrowing privileges for interlibrary loans, electronic materials and/or access to online services may be limited.

5. Library cards may be purchased by those who do not meet the criteria in sections 3 and 4 above.

Visitors to the area may choose to either:

  • Pay a monthly fee that allows for short-term, limited borrowing privileges.
  • Pay a renewable annual fee to borrow physical materials. Access to electronic materials is limited.

6. Access to library services may be suspended.

Library services may be suspended if card holder has unpaid charges that exceed the established threshold. Access to other library services may be suspended to those who are excluded or trespassed from the library.

7. Borrowers are normally expected to present their card for checkout.

Borrowers are normally expected to present their library card each time they wish to borrow materials from the library. In lieu of the library card, a borrower may check out on their account in person with ID. However, if the computer system is down, borrowers are required to present their cards to borrow materials.

8. Library Board reviews this policy.

  • This policy is periodically reviewed, revised, or reaffirmed by the Library Board of Trustees.


Title: 5.201 Eligibility for Library Service
Code: 5 Circulation Services
Chapter: 5.200 Eligibility for services
Type of Policy: Departmental
Date Developed: August 22, 1997
Date Revised: October 22, 2019
Revised by: Jennifer Vander Ploeg, Rebecca Judd
Developed by: Pam Kiesner
Approved By: Library Board of Trustees
Cancels: Section VIII Subsection Circulation Policies and Procedures, Registration Rules and Routines