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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters

How Many Books Can Kids Check Out from Your Library?

This Question Was Suggested to Me By Betty Carter Who

recalls that when library budgets were flush, she used to tell kids to take out at least four books a week — one suggested by a friend, one that suited an assignment, one that appealed to the kid, and one that Betty suggested that the young reader was willing to try out. She wonders whether, especially in school libraries, students are still able to take out that many, or if budget concerns (fear of lost books) have changed the rules. How does this work by age — is there a limit for younger kids, say pre-K-2, who might be seen as more likely to misplace books? (though you might also argue that books given to those younger kids are more likely to be seen and handled by parents). Does it vary by kind of book — for example lavish titles like Guinness Book of Records, or some DK extravaganza — are those still circulating or are they classified as reference?

In your (school or public) library, what are the rules on circulation, and do you think that influences the kinds of books kids check out? In other words, if you can only take a few, does that four narrow down to just what the child wants, or just what the child needs for an assignment? 

Tell us.


  1. Alexander says:

    In our public library the children are restricted to 15 books and 4 multimedia items to be issued on the card at any one time. I encourage kids to take any titles that look interesting, as well as the homework titles that I suggest. We don’t do reference items any more for the children’s library, it has been replaced with online resources. If it cant be, wont be or isn’t borrowed over a school year I withdraw it. Books are meant to be borrowed, I don’t want them cluttering up my shelves!

  2. WendieO says:

    In our public library, we often say, “You may take as many as your parents say you can.” In fact, I love to say this to the adults too, just to get a laugh. Our only limitation is on AV and on books being heavily requested for for a school assignment. -wendieO

  3. Ellen Fader says:

    Borrowing limits apply equally to all ages at Multnomah County Library ibn Portland, Oregon: You may borrow up to a total of 150 items at one time. However, you may check out 15 DVDs at one time and 15 CDs at one time.

  4. Marc Aronson says:

    From those who have posted so far, it seems Betty’s concern was misplaced. But we have not yet heard from anyone whose libraries have set new limits — are you out there?

  5. Nancy Silverrod says:

    Children are treated the same as adults in borrowing privileges at the San Francisco Public Library: they may borrow 50 books, 8 magazines, 6 videos, 6 dvds, 6 audiobooks, and 6 language learning materials. The only difference for kids is that they aren’t charged fines for overdue items.

  6. Lindi Wood says:

    We are a small, K-12, independent school library and we’ve had the same limits for years: generally one item per grade level until middle school, when it opens up to 10 per student. Our reasoning for so severely limiting the youngest patrons is that we are teaching them about libraries: that libraries are not bookstores and that as a patron they are responsible for what they borrow, not their parents. Mid-year, kindergarten and 1st grade students get their limit increased to 2 books at a time, because they have shown that they understand the concept of borrowing and returning books. (And I’m using books loosely — magazines, videos, cds are all circulated the same way.) Our heaviest users, statistically, are our primary grade students.

  7. I work with Lindi from the above posting and I just want to add that parents are encouraged to have their own accounts and they don’t really have limits. So, if a family with young children needs or wants more library materials, we encourage the parents to check out whatever is in excess of the child’s limits. Many families take advantage of this practice.

  8. Marc Aronson says:

    that is an interesting way to both restrict and expand the amount of books, and if limited to the youngest children probably does not get into issues of kids’ interests clashing with those of their parents.

  9. We are a brand new school, and have a collection that is pretty small. We have put in restrictions as we found that if the number of books per child was limitless we would have nothing on the shelves.

    Our policy is one per grade level plus one,(year 2 can borrow 3 books + 1 DVD _ 1 periodical) except in secondary where it is 10 books, one DVD and 1 periodical.
    We are a bit flexible about how many they can have. We are finding the younger students haven’t figured out that they need to bring the books back to the library, so sometimes we have to ask them to return some of the 8-10 books they already have out.

    The students have unlimited access to the library during the day and week and can borrow as many times as they want to.

    We are going to have a superstar borrowing category where they can apply to have unlimited borrowing if they have a clean record.

  10. Louisianak-6librarian says:

    My principal and the instructional coordinator are trying to limit my students to two books. As a librarian, I feel they should have unlimited check-outs. The books do not do any good sitting on the shelf and it boosts students’ self-esteem. I am fighting this decision and would like others opionions or any documentation that you could provide me.

  11. Marc Aronson says:

    I don’t have room to respond here, but I got some great advice and will devote my blog on Monday to the request from the Louisana librarian

  12. Louisianak-6librarian says:

    Thank you very much!