Birmingham City Council

FAQs for Libraries

These are questions which library users frequently ask us.
If you wish to make any comments about the replies, please
use the form at the bottom of this screen.

Where can I use my library ticket?
Do I have to pay to borrow them?
What can I borrow with my library ticket?
How long can I keep the items I've borrowed?
Can I renew items if I want to keep them longer?
How do I make a comment, compliment or complaint?
What can I do if I can't find what I want when I visit the library?
What is my PIN (Personal Identification Number) for?
What happens if I don't return items on time?
What happens if I lose or damage an item I've borrowed?
What happens if my card is lost or stolen?
Why do you have all these computers and no books?
How do you choose the books that you buy?
Why is the library so noisy?
Why aren’t you open at lunch times (many community libraries)?
Why aren’t you open on Wednesdays (most community libraries)?
Why aren’t these ‘Reference Only’ books available to borrow from the lending library ?
The catalogue says that the reference book I need is kept in your book store. How do I request a book from the book store?
Why do I have to fill out my name and address – I only want to look at the book, not take it home?


Where can I use my library ticket?

You can use it at all Birmingham Libraries. You don't need a ticket to use the reference and enquiry service.

Do I have to pay to borrow them?

It's free to borrow books but there is a small charge to borrow talking books, music CDs DVDs and videos.

What can I borrow with my library ticket?

You can borrow up to 8 books or talking books, 8 Music CDs and 5 videos or DVDs.

How long can I keep the items I've borrowed?

You can keep books and talking books for up to three weeks and music CDs for two weeks.
For videos and DVDs, there is a 2 night loan for recently released items (Top Titles) and 7 nights for all the rest.


Can I renew items if I want to keep them longer?

Yes. You can renew most items up to a maximum of four times. You can do this in person, over the telephone and online. Please have your card to hand. If you use the self service facility you will need your PIN as well. An additional hire charge will be made for CDs, videos and DVDs.

How do I make a comment, compliment or complaint?

We aim to provide the best possible services, and we welcome your comments about how we can improve our services to you. Occasionally things may go wrong and you may wish to make a complaint. You can do this in a number of ways:

  • Speak to a member of staff in person or on the telephone who will try to resolve any difficulties immediately.
  • Write a comment in the Library's Comments and Suggestions folder. These are monitored regularly by the library managers and their replies will be put in the folder so that you and other members of the public can see the response.
  • Telephone, write or email comments to individual libraries

    We have a target response of 14 days for any letters received and 48 hours for a response to customer e-mails.

    If you wish to use the City Council's Customer Comments form to comment on any aspect of the Library Service, you can pick up a form at your local library or at the Library of Birmingham. It can be handed in at any library or posted back by 'freepost' to Birmingham City Council. Alternatively you can complete the Online Comments form.


What can I do if I can't find what I want when I visit the library?

It may be that the item you want is on loan or only available at another library. Free reservations are available. You can also reserve online.

What is my PIN (Personal Identification Number) for?

Your PIN together with your ticket number will give you access to self service facilities and the online catalogue. You will be able to reserve items and renew items you have on loan.


What happens if I don't return items on time?

You will have to pay a fine for items brought back late unless you are under 18. Adults should not borrow books for themselves on a child's card.

What happens if I lose or damage an item I've borrowed?

Please remember that you are responsible for all items issued to your ticket - take care of them and return them to the library on time. You will be charged the replacement cost of any item that is not returned to the library.

What happens if my card is lost or stolen?

Please report it to library staff as soon as you can so that they can cancel it and stop anyone else using it. You will then be issued with a new card.
There is a charge for a replacement ticket and you will need to show proof of address before a new ticket can be issued.
Remember that you are responsible for all items issued on your ticket until you have reported the loss to the library.

Why do you have all these computers and no books?

Over the last few years libraries have benefited from an increase in the number of public access internet points and stand-alone computers. Most of this equipment has been bought through lottery funding in response to the Government policy to make the internet widely available to all individuals and groups within the community. The investment has paid off and the equipment is used by many people who otherwise would not have access to the internet – particularly children who don’t have a home computer for their homework.

Libraries are still buying and lending books. Unfortunately, our budget for new books has not increased as much as we need to keep pace with inflation costs.

We work hard to make the best of the budget that is available for book buying, for example, by buying at heavily discounted rates. At the moment we are investigating ways of moving books around to offer our users more choice. We have introduced free reservations and a stock suggestion scheme so that users can tell us what they want to read and if they think there are gaps in our stock. We will respond to these suggestions if our budget allows us to.


How do you choose the books that you buy?

Books and other materials are chosen by senior library staff for their individual service points. Where specialist knowledge of a particular area of stock is essential, e.g. Community Languages, a specialised Stock Team will select the stock for libraries across the city.
Mainstream material is now selected over the Internet by local library managers. However in reflecting the needs of all the diverse communities in the city, the library service needs to buy more widely and significant amounts are spent with small specialist suppliers by local library staff.
All items in the lending stock of Birmingham Libraries are available for loan through any library service point.

Why is the library so noisy?

Libraries are quite different places from what we might have expected 10 or 20 years ago. We now offer CDs, DVDs, internet access and e-mail as well as books and we are attracting many people who may never have used the library when all it had to offer was books.

Many of the people attracted by these new services also want to use the library as a place to meet their friends as well as use the library facilities. Young people use the library more in school holidays and at weekends and at these times the noise levels often increase. There are now also new ways of learning which require students to work in groups, whereas the design of most libraries is for individual study.

However, we want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable in the library. Over the years the unspoken rules such as "silence in the library" have been relaxed to encourage wider use. We expect everyone using the library services to be tolerant of and courteous to others.

In community libraries, we may be able to find you a quiet corner or suggest a time when the library will be less busy if you find the noise level intrusive. In the Library of Birmingham, there are always spaces for people to work in silence.


Why aren’t you open at lunch times (many community libraries)?

The reason many libraries close at lunch times is due to reductions in the Libraries budget made in the past. In order to avoid closing libraries altogether, the number of staff was reduced, meaning that most libraries had to shut for an hour at lunch time to enable staff to have their own break and ensure that the library service is provided efficiently and in a safe environment. Opening hours were also reduced at other times of the day.

Birmingham City Council recognised that library opening hours needed to be increased and has found ways for this to happen. A significant number of community libraries are now open over lunch time.


Why aren’t you open on Wednesdays (most community libraries)?

The main factor affecting opening hours of libraries is the number of staff available to serve library users. By far the largest part of the Libraries budget is spent on staff, so any significant change to this budget affects the number of staff employed and their availability at different times of the day or week.

Since the 1970s, community libraries have traditionally been closed on Wednesdays and open on Saturdays instead. Library staff work a 5-day week and usually have Wednesday as their day off in order to be able to work on Saturday, which is a popular day for families and people at work during the week to visit the library.

We are currently looking at staggering the days when libraries are closed across the city, so that
you will find a library fairly close to you open every day.

Why aren’t these ‘Reference Only’ books available to borrow from the lending library ?

Birmingham Libraries tries to make all its resources accessible to everyone. However, some books, because of their expense or their specialist nature, are made available on a ‘Reference Only’ basis. Most reference stock is located in the Library of Birmingham where there is ample space to read, make notes and usually photocopy extracts of the book.

Why do I have to fill out my name and address – I only want to look at the book, not take it home?

In the Library of Birmingham a significant amount of our stock is kept in non-public areas. Material is kept here because of its age, conservation needs, uniqueness or value. It is for the protection of these important and historical works that we need to take a person’s name and address before the item is viewed.