System Policies

1. Mission

The Mercer County Library System (MCLS) recognizes that access to information empowers individuals with knowledge and opportunity. The Library is committed to providing the materials and services that satisfy the educational, informational, recreational, and cultural needs of our diverse community, and strives to encourage a lifelong interest in reading.

2. Use of the Library Facilities

The facilities of the Mercer County Library System are supported by County member municipalities, which include: East Windsor, Ewing, Hightstown, Hopewell Township, Lawrence, Robbinsville, and West Windsor. Library services will not be denied because of age, race, religion, social or economic status, political affiliation or any other discriminatory criterion.

3. Americans With Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (revised 2009) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability or have a relationship or association with an individual with a disability. An individual is defined by the ADA as a person who:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
  • Has a record of such an impairment; or
  • Is being regarded by others as having such an impairment

Transitory impairments with an actual or expected duration of 6 months or less do not meet the requirement of “being regarded as having such an impairment.”

Title II (State and Local Government Activities), requires that State and local governments give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to benefit from all of their programs, services, and activities.

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Mercer County Library encourages full participation in library programs and services. Please submit any requests for accommodation for people with disabilities to your local branch library. People who are deaf, hard of hearing and/or speech impaired can access the New Jersey Relay Service at 711 or 1-800-852-7899. New Jersey State Library Talking Book and Braille Center (TBBC) provides a variety of services for persons with disabilities. For more information individuals may call 1-800-792-8322.

Library privileges may be revoked or temporarily suspended due to activity or behavior that infringes on others’ use of the library or on library employees’ ability to perform their public service.

4. Service and Emotional Support Animals

A. Service Animals

It is the policy of the Mercer County Library System to allow service animals in its facilities, with the following distinctions:

Under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities may bring their service animals to all public accommodations, including libraries. Examples of work or tasks performed by a service animal include, but are not limited to:

  • guide or “seeing-eye” dogs who help people with visual impairments navigate safely
  • hearing dogs who alert those with hearing impairments to alarms, ringtones, and other important noises
  • seizure dogs, who alert their handlers of impending seizures
  • animals that perform manual tasks, such as pushing elevator buttons, pulling wheelchairs, and holding and retrieving items, and
  • psychiatric services animals, or social signal animals, which can interrupt self-destructive or dangerous behavior, alert users to the need to take medication, or diminish the effects of acute anxiety

The ADA defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to perform tasks or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability. In some circumstances, a miniature horse who is individually trained also qualifies as a service animal under ADA. The work or task a service animal has been trained to provide must be associated with the individual’s disability.

New Jersey law recognizes physical, mental, developmental, and psychological disabilities, so a dog that is individually trained to assist with any of these disabilities should qualify as a service dog.

Only when the individual’s disability or the task the animal is trained to perform is not obvious, staff may ask the following two precisely worded questions to determine whether or not an animal is a service animal: 

  1. Is the animal a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What task or service is the animal trained to perform?

The law requires that the library take the individual at their word. People are not required to possess any certification or identification for a service animal. Service animals are not required to wear a vest or a badge. The law allows individuals to train their own dog, therefore documentation of training may not be accessible and cannot be required.

The New Jersey LAD requires public accommodations, including libraries, to allow people with disabilities who use service dogs, subject only to these conditions:

  • The person must keep the dog in his/her custody at all times
  • The person can be required to pay for any damage his/her dog causes
  • The person can’t be charged an additional fee for having a service dog

The library system is committed to providing an inclusive public space, which means accommodations for people with service animals. Yet, the library is also responsible for maintaining safe spaces. Under the ADA, a service animal can be excluded from a public accommodation if it poses a direct threat to health and safety. For example, if the service dog is aggressively barking or snapping at other patrons, the facility can request that the dog be removed. This should be handled on a case by case basis, and the patron should still be welcomed to use the library without their animal.

B. Emotional Support Animals (ESA)

With regard to Emotional Support Animals, rather than being trained to perform certain tasks or actions, ESAs help with an owner’s general mental health and wellbeing. These animals provide a sense of safety, companionship, and comfort to those with psychiatric or emotional disabilities or conditions. Although these animals often have therapeutic benefits, they are not individually trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers. More importantly, there is no provision in the ADA or New Jersey’s service animal law that indicates that ESAs in spaces open to the public must be accommodated in the same manner as service dogs.

C. Library Policy

The Mercer County Library System bars all animals from library premises, but permits, as required by law, service animals. Service animals are defined as dogs or in some cases, miniature horses. The library will also permit service animals that are being trained to provide tasks to assist with a disability, and animals that are a part of a preapproved educational program sponsored by the library.

If it is not apparent to a staff member whether or not the patron in possession of an animals is a service animal they may ask two questions:

  1. Is the animal a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What task or service is the animal trained to perform?

If the patron responds in the affirmative, staff must take the patron at their word. No documentation or paperwork need be presented, nor is the animal required to wear any identifying garment.

Service animals must remain in possession of the person at all times.

Only when a staff member reasonably believes that a service animal is a genuine disruption to other patrons or staff, or a threat to health and safety (for example, the dog is behaving aggressively by loudly barking or snapping, the dog is not in the possession of the owner, or the dog is not “house trained,”) they may ask the owner to remove the animal from the facility.

5. Applying for a Library Card

You can apply for a library card either by coming into a branch or filling out our Library Card Application online (for residents only).

A. Resident Cards

Anyone age 18 or over who lives or owns property within the boundaries of East Windsor, Ewing, Hightstown, Hopewell Township, Lawrence, Robbinsville, or West Windsor townships may obtain a free library card, upon completion of an application, to include a social security number or active driver’s license number, presentation of photographic identification*, and proof of residency.

The following will be accepted as proof of residency:

  • Valid New Jersey Driver’s License or Non-driver Identification Card
  • Valid New Jersey Motor Vehicle registration
  • A current bank statement that verifies the name and address
  • Current rental lease, receipt or deed
  • A current utility bill addressed to the individual
  • Current school identification card and/or a current tuition bill
  • Dated letter from a social services agency

The following will not be accepted as proof of residency:

  • Post Office Box
  • General Delivery addresses
  • Business card

*Photographic proof of identity (i.e. driver’s license) will only be accepted in paper, not electronic format. Proof of employment, proof of student status or use of a bill (i.e. tuition, school schedule, utility) will be accepted if presented in electronic form, as long as the proof is properly dated (i.e. a school schedule must indicate the current school year.)

B. Minor Resident Cards

Children under the age of 14 may obtain a library card with the permission of a parent or guardian, as indicated by the presentation of an application signed by a parent or guardian. Patron must be present when applying for a library card. It is required that the parent or guardian who is accepting responsibility for a minor’s library card be in good standing with the library themselves. Patrons who are barred or who have library accounts that are suspended may not sign for a minor resident card until their own library account is resolved.

Issuance of a card under the provisions of this section entitles the signing parent or guardian the privilege of using their minor child’s card on the same basis as the minor.* This privilege expires when the child reaches age 18. During the application process, a message will be placed on the minor child’s record indicating that the authorizing parent or guardian may use the card and have access to the account.

*Patrons are reminded that only the authorizing individual(s) will be allowed this privilege; if both parents/guardians will wish to use the minor’s card, both must sign the application. This provision is to preserve the confidentiality of the minor patron’s library record, and is in accordance with the New Jersey Confidentiality of Library Records Law. This privilege only extends to the authorizing parent(s) or guardian(s) and not to other members of the family. (Verification of court appointed legal guardianship will be required when issuing a minor resident card for a guardian.)

Minor residents, ages 14-17 may obtain a card upon presentation of a valid, current student ID, without a parent or guardian signature.

Minor Resident Card holders may verbally authorize a parent or guardian to have access to library account information for the purposes of resolving fines and fees; however, verbal authorization of the disclosure of account details does not include use of the library card.

C. Non-Resident Cards

Any non-resident (defined as a person who does not live, own property, work or attend school within the boundaries of East Windsor, Ewing, Hightstown, Hopewell Township, Lawrence, Robbinsville or West Windsor townships) may purchase a library card for $75 per year. Senior citizens, 62 years or older, who live in Mercer County, but not in a participating municipality, may purchase a library card for $10 per year. A non-resident library card is issued upon completion of an application, presentation of current, valid photographic identification, proof of address and payment of the processing or annual fee. As a courtesy to our non-resident patrons who pay for their library privileges, the library will issue cards to a spouse or minor child(ren) living in the household. The library will not issue a free library card to any other adult living in the household.

D. Business Cards

Business cards are available to individuals who work or own a business in one of the member municipalities of the Mercer County Library System. Use of a business library card is limited specifically to the individual cardholder. Cards cannot be issued to a business entity for use by officers or employees of the business. Business cards are issued upon completion of an application, presentation of current, valid proof of employment, such as a recent pay stub, dated work identification or current letter of eligibility from an employer, and a valid photographic identification that includes an address. A printed business card may not be accepted to either initially activate a business card library account or to renew a business library card account. Business library card accounts are renewable annually at no cost, providing the patron can verify their current eligibility by providing the information specified in this paragraph.

E. Mercer County Employee Cards

Per the County of Mercer, employees of the County of Mercer, as well as the Mercer County Board of Social Services (MCBOSS) are entitled to Mercer County Employee Cards with MCLS, regardless of the physical location of their office (i.e. Trenton.)

F. Students

Students who do not reside in a member municipality, but attend public or private schools in a member municipality, or who temporarily reside in a member municipality in order to attend school may be issued a card, free of charge. A student card is issued upon completion of an application, and presentation of a current, valid student photographic identification, along with a current school year class schedule or current school year tuition bill. Student cards are issued for a period of one school year and are renewable after August 15 of each year.

G. Internet-Only Cards

Individuals who are not eligible for a free library card and do not wish to purchase a non-resident card, may purchase an internet-only card for a one-time fee of $2.00. The card is issued upon completion of an application, presentation of current, valid photographic identification, proof of address and payment of the processing fee. These cards will only allow the patron to use the public PC stations and not to check out library materials.

H. Guest Internet Passes

Individuals who are visiting the library and do not wish to register for a library card, but want to use our public PC stations, may obtain a guest pass. Registration will require some form of photographic identification, such as a driver’s license or school identification card. Staff may use their discretion in issuing a guest internet pass in the event that the patron does not have a photographic ID.

I. Temporary Cards

Temporary cards may be issued to a person who has no permanent address, but does have a temporary address in a member municipality. Persons who have identifying letters from social service agencies in participating municipalities may also be issued temporary cards. Temporary cards must be re-verified after three months. Temporary cardholders may not place holds on more than two items or check out more than two items at one time.

6. Maintaining a Library Card

Resident library cards are issued for a term of three years. At the conclusion of each term, resident card holders will be asked to verify their current address as indicated in Section 5. All other non-resident library cards, except temporary cards, are issued for a term of one year. Non-resident cards may be renewed upon verification of address and either payment of the appropriate annual fee or presentation of resident status as verified with proof of residency listed in Section 5. Business, student and internet-only cards may be renewed upon verification of address and presentation of required proof of eligibility, listed in Section 5.

All patrons must notify the library immediately upon loss or theft of a library card. The patron is liable for all materials checked out to his / her card prior to the date of notification. The charge for replacing lost or damaged cards is $2.00.

7. Reciprocal Borrowing Privilege with Plainsboro Public Library

Borrowing privileges are extended to Plainsboro Public Library cardholders according to the reciprocal borrowing agreement of 1993 (amended 1994), between Mercer County Library and Plainsboro Public Library. An MCLS library card is issued to Plainsboro Public Library cardholders upon completion of an application, presentation of a valid Plainsboro Public Library card, and current photographic identification that includes an address.

8. Reciprocal Borrowing with Mercer County Community College

The Mercer County Library System has a reciprocal borrowing agreement with the Mercer County Community College Library (MCCC). Most circulating materials owned by the MCCC library may be placed on hold by Mercer County Library System cardholders for pick-up at any Mercer County Library System branch. The procedure for placing materials owned by MCCC on hold is the same as if the Mercer County Library System owned the item. The MCLS loan period, fees, and extended use fee schedule applies to all college materials borrowed through MCLS. College materials checked out at an MCLS branch must be returned to a Mercer County Library System branch; MCLS will record the item as being returned and forward the item to the community college library.

9. Literacy New Jersey

The Mercer County Library System supports the mission of Literacy New Jersey, Mercer County Chapter, which is coordinated by Literacy New Jersey. Tutors and students of the Mercer County chapter of Literacy New Jersey who live outside of our borrowing area may apply for a complimentary library card because of their participation in the Mercer County Literacy New Jersey Program. Staff will issue a Literacy Volunteer card, which is renewable annually, upon student or tutor verification of current participation in the Mercer County Literacy New Jersey Program. If staff suspects abuse of the privilege or there are significant fines or fees associated with the borrowing of materials, the library will seek resolution with the Literacy New Jersey Coordinator and may suspend library privileges to particular individuals. Literacy New Jersey tutors working with students may use a library copier free of charge exclusively to reproduce study materials. This privilege is not extended to any other persons, groups, or organizations using the library, regardless of whether they are involved in tutoring or other educational services. Literacy New Jersey tutors must contact the Branch Manager or their designee to reserve the community room for tutoring sessions. Literacy New Jersey tutors and students are responsible for contacting each other directly regarding appointments or cancellation of a session.

10. Standards for Patron Conduct

All patrons are expected to observe and maintain a standard of acceptable behavior, as set forth below and to respect the rights of other patrons and library staff.

The following behaviors are not permitted in the library and are set forth as reasonable rules and regulations for patron conduct:

  • Food and drink are not permitted near the PCs at any time.
    • Covered beverages and light, dry snacks are permitted in most areas of the library.
    • Please note that noisy, messy and strong-smelling foods are prohibited.
    • It is expected that patrons will throw away trash and leave an area clean.
  • Smoking or vaping (NJSA 2C:33-13)
  • Improper attire, including bare feet or chests.
  • Consumption of alcohol or use of illegal substances
  • Intoxication (NJSA 2C:33-2)
  • Carrying a weapon into the library unless otherwise authorized by law. Any patron authorized to carry a weapon must notify library staff upon entry that he/she is carrying a weapon into the library. (NJSA 2C:39-5)
  • Bringing animals into the library unless, as required by law, they are they are service animals. (See Section 4, page 2, for further detail on this policy.) Animals that are a part of a preapproved educational program being sponsored by the library are also allowed, as well as service dogs in training. “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” (
  • Misusing the restrooms (i.e. using as a laundry or washing facility). (NJSA 2C:33-12)
  • Personal hygiene shall conform to the standard of the community for public places. This will include the repair or cleanliness of garments. Patrons whose bodily hygiene is offensive so as to cause a nuisance to others shall be required to leave the building. Patrons are expected to wear appropriate clothing while using library facilities, including shirts and shoes.
  • Failure to observe the indications for supervision and/or accompaniment of children within the library as set forth in Section 11.
  • Talking loudly, making noise or engaging in disruptive behavior, including the use of loud or offensively coarse or abusive language.
  • Playing of audio equipment so that others can hear it.
  • Interfering with another person’s use of the library or with the library personnel’s performance of their duties.
  • Running or standing on furniture. Skateboarding, jumping, and throwing objects, playing on step or in entrances. Riding scooters or bikes on the steps, ramps, in the buildings, or in entrances is also not permitted.
  • Panhandling or soliciting.
  • Damaging library property, including, but not limited to, damaging restrooms, defacing furniture and walls, damaging computer equipment, removing pages from books, destroying landscaping or outdoor fixtures. (NJSA 2C:17-3)
  • Stealing library materials. (NJSA 2C:20-1213, & 14)
  • Filming, photography or video recording in the library except as set forth in Section #25 Filming and Photography Policy.
  • Threatening or physically harming staff or patrons.
  • Striking, kicking, shoving or other offensive touching or threats to do so. (NJSA 2C:33-4)
  • Other behavior that is deemed inappropriate or disruptive by the library staff.

Library privileges may be terminated for repeated violation of any of the above standards and immediately for the following reasons: damaging or vandalizing library property; stealing library materials; threatening or physically harming staff or patrons.

Acts of assault, harassment, criminal mischief, child abandonment, theft, threatening or physically harming staff or patrons, behaving in a disorderly manner, public communication of obscenity, criminal trespass, loitering and vandalism, or other misdemeanors or criminal offenses not otherwise specified herein, shall render any person so acting liable to criminal prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.

A. Cell Phone Usage

Cell phone usage that disturbs other patrons or staff is not permitted in the library. We request that patrons turn cell phones to silent or vibrate when in the library, and be considerate of those around you by speaking quietly for brief periods of time. Phone calls that require more extended periods of time will be limited to the lobby, vestibule or outside areas of the buildings. Please do not use cell phones at the patron service desks.

11. Parental/Guardian Supervisory Responsibilities

The Mercer County Library System welcomes children of all ages. We strive to be a doorway through which a life-long interest in learning and reading takes place. The public library is, however, just that, a public building. As such, anyone can come into it, law-abiding or otherwise.

Library staff have many duties to perform in order to serve the patrons of the library system and cannot monitor the behavior or whereabouts of each patron, including children. Staff does not take over parental responsibilities for children who come into the library. A parent or caregiver must provide continuous supervision for children to ensure their safety. A child could be tempted to go off with a stranger, become ill, or become lost. Any of these emergencies could take place in a public building. Because of these and other emergencies that could take place, the following policy has been adopted:

  • Children Six Years of Age and Under
    Children six years of age and younger may not be left unattended in the library. They must be in direct supervision of a parent or other adult when in the library, which means that the adult must remain with the child during the entire library visit. This includes the circumstances of a child who may be using a computer or playing in the Children’s Area. Exceptions to this policy occur when programming requires children to attend on their own; however parents are required to remain in the building when children are attending a program on their own. At these times, children should be brought to the activity prior to the program and be met outside the door of the Activity Room at its conclusion. If parents are expected to be busy in the library, for example, using a computer, photocopier or attending a meeting, plan to leave your child home or bring an adult caregiver with you to the library. Do not expect one child to supervise another.
  • Children Ages 7-13
    Children seven to thirteen years of age should not be left without the presence of a parent or guardian somewhere in the library building. Children under the age of 14 who are left unattended at the close of business will be considered stranded. Staff will be instructed to wait approximately 15 minutes with the child and then contact the local police department.

Parents are responsible for the conduct of minor children, under 18 years of age, in the library or on library grounds, regardless of whether they are in the company of their child or not.

12. Circulation Policies

The Mercer County Library System collects, organizes and circulates books and other library materials to children, young adults and adult patrons. Selection of these materials is made to meet the informational, educational, cultural and recreational needs of all residents of the library service area.

Any valid cardholder may borrow and return materials at any branch of the Mercer County Library System, with the exception of Museum Passes. The physical library card or patron’s barcode presented through the MyMCLSNJ app must be present for check-out. Any other electronic formats of library cards will not be accepted.

The cardholder is responsible for the materials borrowed and charges incurred against their library card. For a minor resident card, the authorizing parent or guardian is responsible for the materials borrowed and charges incurred against the minor’s library account.

A. Check Out or Using a Public PC Without Presenting A Library Card

The Mercer County Library System issues a library card to eligible users, which entitles them to utilize all library services. This card is a positive form of identification and ensures the reliability, confidentiality, and integrity of a patron’s record. All patrons are required to present their card when checking out materials, and when items on reserve, or using a public PC.

In the event that the patron does not have their card in their immediate possession, they will be asked for an alternative form of identification, such as a driver’s license, work or school identification. A note will be placed on the patron’s record indicating non-presentation of library card, and the patron will be expected to bring their card on the next visit or purchase a replacement card for a cost of $2.00. Staff will allow a patron to check out without presentation of a library card once in a three-month period. After that it will be assumed that the patron has lost or misplaced the original card and will be issued a new card for the replacement cost of $2.00.

B. Picking Up Items on Hold for Another Cardholder

Cardholders who wish to allow other persons or family members to pick up item(s) placed on hold are responsible for informing the library, in person, of the identity of any person or persons to whom such permission will be granted. A message will be placed on the patron’s record, stating for whom permission has been granted. The person picking up the requested item(s) must present the patron’s library card when retrieving the item(s), and may not use the card to check out items other than those on hold. The patron issued the card is fully responsible for materials borrowed and charges incurred on the card.

13. Loan Periods, Item Limits, Extended Use Fees, and Other Fees

Loan periods, item limits, extended use fees, and other fees vary by type of material and item demand (see Attachment A). Loan limits are placed on books in a particular category when there is a school project that will require many students to use the books available or at the discretion of the Branch Manager or their designee.

A. Lucky Day Collection

The Lucky Day Collection is meant to be a browsing collection for patrons who are physically in a branch, and was created with the intention of meeting patron demand for highly popular, newly released adult titles with large reserve lists. The collection was created to lessen the time patrons wait for a book to become available for circulation, as patrons who are “lucky” to find a copy of a title in the branch will likely cancel their hold request, thereby shortening the wait time for all patrons on hold for that title. These collections are available at select branches. The parameters of lending books designated in the Lucky Day Collection are:

  1. This collection will only include newly released, adult materials with large reserve lists
  2. Two (2) week lending period
  3. Titles cannot be reserved through the library’s holds process
  4. Renewals are not permitted

B. Browsing Collection

The Browsing Collection is designed to meet the popular reading needs of the library’s young patrons. This collection, which is available at select branches, consists of highly popular older titles, with a concentration on fiction series, that still hold the interest of our patrons, especially when a new entry in the series is published. The parameters of lending books designated in the Browsing Collection are:

  1. This collection will only include older titles, with a concentration on youth titles that are a part of a series
  2. Three (3) week lending period
  3. Up to four (4) renewals
  4. Titles cannot be reserved through the library’s holds process

C. In-house and Circulating Launchpads

Launchpads were purchased to offer a learning tool to our youngest patrons that are safe, fun, and meet the educational and entertainment needs of today’s youth in a digital format. Launchpads are secure, pre-loaded learning tablets created for children in a circulation environment. Each Launchpad is pre-loaded with high-quality, ad-free learning apps grouped by age, grade level, subject area and theme. The devices cannot access the internet and no other software can be added onto the device.

  • In-House Use: In-House Use Launchpads were purchased to be used in the library branch and do not circulate outside of the branch.
    1. In-house use Launchpads must be checked-out on a valid library card and have a loan period of one (1) hour
    2. Holds may not be placed on in-house use Launchpads
    3. In-house use Launchpads can be renewed only one (1) time
    4. The maximum number of in-house use Launchpads that may be checked-out is three (3) per library card
    5. If an in-house Launchpad is inadvertently taken out of the library there will be a $.50 per day extended use fee imposed until the Launchpad is returned
  • Circulating Launchpads
    1. Have a loan period of one (1) week
    2. May be renewed up to four (4) times as long as no other patron is on hold for the device
    3. The maximum number of circulating Launchpads that may be checked-out is three (3) per library card
    4. There is a $.50 per day extended use fee for devices that are not returned or renewed by the date due

D. Holds / Reserves

A hold can be placed on any circulating material, with the exception of periodicals, and the Lucky Day and Browsing collections. If not filled, a hold will be canceled after twelve months. The patron will be notified when cancellation occurs. When a reserved item is checked in at a branch library, the patron will be notified either via email or phone call, and the item will be held for five working days from the check in date. If a hold item is not picked up within five working days, the hold is automatically canceled.

E. Renewals

Circulating materials may be renewed four times in person, by phone, or via the online catalog, with the following exceptions:

  • Items on Hold (reserved) for another patron cannot be renewed
  • The item is designated with an item type of “Lucky Day” or Museum Pass
  • The item is an ILL material

Staff are not able to override the maximum renewal. If a patron requires the continued use of an item after the item has exceeded the four maximum renewals the patron must present the item in person. With the authorization of the branch manager or their designee, the item must be checked-in and can be checked back out to the patron, as long as there is at least one other copy, which is in a “checked-in” status, available in the library system.

F. Lost Material

An item that is attached to a patron’s record that has been lost for 90 days will revert to a lost status, at which time the patron will be responsible for replacing or paying for the item. There is a $2.00 processing fee that will be added to each lost or replaced item. A patron wishing to replace the item must obtain permission to do so from the Branch Manager or their designee. If approved, the replacement item must be an exact duplicate of the item, in excellent/new condition.

  • Refunds: A refund may be issued only in the event that a lost and paid for item is returned within a 14 (fourteen) day period. The refund will not include any overdue fines or reprocessing fees, which may apply. This excludes:
    1. ILL items, as other fees designated by the lending institution may apply
    2. Replacement items that have been processed and cataloged into the collection. For example, in the event a patron replaces a lost item and the lost item is processed into the collection, then the patron locates the lost item and would like to return the item and take back the replaced copy, the library will not accept the original lost item back once the replacement has been processed and added to the collection.
  • The return of a lost MCLS item after the 90 day period and before it is deleted from the library catalog. If a lost item, belonging to MCLS, is returned after the 90 day period, but before the item has been deleted from the library catalog, staff will waive the cost of the lost item down to a $6.00 maximum overdue fee, plus a $2.00 processing fee (for a total of $8.00.)
  • Recovery of a lost MCLS item that has been deleted from the library catalog. The library initiates a monthly search for items that remain in a lost status. If the library cannot locate the item within one year, the item record is deleted from the library catalog, although, the lost notation and fees remain attached to the patron record. If the lost item is found after it has been deleted from the catalog, the item will not be accepted. The patron will be responsible for the cost of the item, plus processing fees.
  • If a patron believes they have returned an item that is on their library record. If a patron believes that an item has been returned, the patron will be advised to search further for the item. The library staff will search for the item also. The status of items not recovered in the 90 day period of the search will automatically be converted to “lost”. The patron will be responsible for the lost item charges.

G. Damaged Material

Patrons are responsible for replacement or payment of damaged materials, as these items cannot be circulated due to the damage. Damage fees will be assessed to cover the full replacement of the item or in accordance with the replacement part costs, listed on the Extended Use Schedule (Attachment A). A $2.00 processing fee will be attached to damaged materials.

H. Barred Status

  1. A patron will be blocked from borrowing materials when the total of all fines, fees, and/or lost materials charges on a patron’s account reaches $25.00. If a patron whose borrowing privileges are blocked does not bring the total of fines and charges below $25.00 by the end of the calendar month in which the total is reached, the patron will be deemed barred. Once a patron has been designated as barred, borrowing privileges will be suspended until all overdue materials are returned and the patron’s balance is paid in full.
  2. A patron with outstanding Interlibrary Loan materials that are overdue more than three weeks will be designated as barred, and all borrowing privileges will be suspended, regardless of the total of fines and other charges against the patron’s account. When the ILL materials are returned and all charges associated with the loan of ILL materials are resolved, borrowing privileges will be reinstated.

I. Bank Returned Checks

There will be a $20.00 bank fee for any returned check. When the bank returns a check to the library, library staff will freeze the patron’s library account until payment is made on the amount of the returned check and the $20 surcharge. Payment must be made in cash, money order or certified check, at any branch of the library system.

J. Fee Policy

The Mercer County Library System believes in promoting access to resources and services. Services and resources developed in accordance with the library’s Mission and Roles statements are provided without fee to the library’s constituency. Fees may be imposed for auxiliary services beyond the library’s accepted roles, and/or as a measure for preserving services equity or curtailing excessive individual demand detrimental to the constituency at large. Fees are set periodically. Please see the Extended Use Schedule (Attachment A) for a complete list.

Non-Resident Fee$75.00 annually
Non-Contributing Mercer County Senior Fee$10.00 annually
Lost or replacement card fee$ 2.00
Internet Only Card$ 2.00 one-time
    Black and white

$ .10 per page
Computer Printouts
Black and white

$ .10 per page
$ .50 per page
Photocopies and faxed materials sent from other branches, to include certain ILL faxes and photocopies$ .10 per page

K. Damage to a Patron’s AV or Automobile Equipment

Mercer County Library System assumes no responsibility for the consequences, including damage or other malfunction, to home, business, or personal electronic equipment of any type, as a result of using physical or electronic material obtained through the Mercer County Library System.

14. Confidentiality of Patron Records

N.J.S.A. 18A:73-43.2. Confidentiality; exceptions

Library records which contain the names or other personally identifying details regarding the users of libraries are confidential and shall not be disclosed except in the following circumstances:

  1. The records are necessary for the proper operation of the library;
  2. Disclosure is requested by the user; or
  3. Disclosure is required pursuant to a subpoena issued by a court or court order.

L. 1985, c. 172 § 2.

For purposes of this section, and without limitation, circulation records, including name, address, status of the borrower, titles of materials currently on loan, dates of transactions, PC registration data, and reserve files, of the Mercer County Library System are deemed to be confidential for purposes of NJSA 18A: 73-43.2 and any ancillary provisions pertinent to that section of the law.

The Mercer County Library System is committed to the confidentiality of our patrons’ records in accordance with New Jersey’s Confidentiality of Library Records Law, NJSA 18A:73-43.2. The library system will comply with all State of New Jersey laws, regulations and administrative directives concerning the maintenance of library records, including internet usage registration records.

Any request for disclosure that does not fall under subsections (a) or (b) of NJSA 18A:73-43.2 shall be referred to the Mercer County Counsel’s Office for review, which office will render a decision as to form, legality and scope of any court-issued subpoena or court order.

Library staff are bound by federal and state law in the matter of patron record confidentiality, and are not permitted to exercise discretion in releasing information. Any dispute regarding the right of access to a patron record will be referred to MCLS Administration for determination. Persistent or repeated demands for unauthorized access to patron records will be referred to the Office of Mercer County Counsel for appropriate action.

Parents or legal guardians are entitled to information relating to the use of a minor’s card in certain situations, as this is deemed as essential to the library’s operation. However, only the parent(s) or guardian(s) whose signature appears on the registration card will be allowed access to the library account in order to ensure confidentiality of the record. The library will not discuss a minor’s account with any person other than the person whose name appears on the back of the registration card and the minor themselves. If more than one parent or guardian wishes to access a minor child’s card, they must individually sign the registration card. If no parent/guardian signature appears (as in the case with a child 14 years or older who may apply for the card themselves,) the library will not disclose information regarding the account with anyone other than the patron unless that patron authorizes such disclosure, or the parent/guardian signs the registration card assuming responsibility for the account. Verification of relationship will be required. This process must be completed at the branch where the account was first opened.

15. Reference Services

Accurate and efficient reference service is provided in person, by telephone, and via email using the library’s e-Reference service, to library users by professional librarians and trained paraprofessionals.

The Lawrence Headquarters Branch maintains an extensive reference collection. Its reference department is staffed by reference librarians to assist in-house patrons, answer phone questions and provide reference support services to reference staff in the branches. The Headquarters reference collection includes New Jersey specific materials, business, genealogy and local history items. The Township of Lawrence Historian’s Office also maintains a small room at the HQ Branch. When the resources of the library cannot satisfy a request for information, it may be referred to other libraries throughout the state through library networking. Users are also referred directly to appropriate agencies; however, the reference staff does not mediate between users and these agencies.

Priority is given to in-person requests over telephone requests. Staff assists users in looking up desired materials, using the computer catalog and in locating items on the shelves. If the Mercer County Library System does not own the requested material, an attempt will be made to obtain the material through Interlibrary Loan (see section on ILL).

Staff provide answers to “ready reference” types of inquiries, including directions, general information concerning library services, and questions involving specific facts, which can be readily determined from standard sources. For inquiries that require longer, more detailed answers, or extensive searching or interpretation of materials, the staff assists the user in selecting the most appropriate sources and offers instruction in the use of these sources selected for the search.

The amount of time that a staff member can spend assisting individual users is necessarily limited by the needs of other users. Time limits vary according to the complexity of materials to be used, library experience of the user, the number of other users needing assistance and the number of staff available to help users.

Branch staff will assist users within the confines of the branch’s collection. Staff will call or refer patrons to the Lawrence Headquarters for more extensive reference assistance.

Staff cannot offer appraisals of rare books, coins, stamps, antiques, etc. Nor can they recommend specific titles for purchase on a given topic. A staff member will help the user locate printed sources, reviews and evaluations. Users are urged to inspect each title personally to determine if it meets their individual needs.

Staff can provide short, factual information to answer medical, financial, or consumer review questions or provide specific citations regarding legal questions and direct patrons to tax information in the library’s resources. Advice, interpretations and opinions cannot be provided. The staff assists users in locating and using items in the library collection, but cannot engage in genealogical research for users. Staff can provide answers to trivia, game and contest questions that require simple factual information from a standard source. However, those users who require lengthy searches are offered guidance in locating likely sources for their answers.

Staff provide users needing translations with appropriate dictionaries as available in the collection. They will assist users in locating translators by request.

Staff can provide limited instruction on the use of personal computers and electronic devices, but cannot offer advice on repairs, software installation, or product recommendations. The information and instruction offered by library staff is exclusively demonstrative in nature, and is intended to solely acquaint patrons with the operation of electronic devices in general, or the installation and use of applications, programs and related software. Actual implementation, modification, or use of any device, application, program, or other software shall be undertaken by the patron on the patron’s own initiative, who shall be solely responsible for the consequences of any such use, modification or installation. The library system and its staff assume no responsibility for the functioning or consequences of any application, program, or other software installed or utilized by any patron, or for the interaction of such material with any electronic device.

School assignments are often designed to teach students to locate and interpret information. The staff provides guidance in locating, and instruction in using, sources of information. Short, factual answers such as names, dates, or the spelling of a word are provided unless it appears that the intent of the assignment is to train students in the use of reference sources.

Telephone Reference Service

As part of its service to the public, the staff takes requests for information by telephone and responds as time permits. As stated above, the staff gives priority to in-person requests over telephone requests. Telephone reference may be limited to three inquiries per day.

  • Search Parameters: The staff provides telephone reference service for short, factual inquiries that do not require extensive searches, interpretations, or the reading of long passages over the telephone. Sources consulted are cited. If research and interpretation is needed, the librarians will cite sources of information and invite users to come to the library to examine the materials
  • Holds: Holds are limited to three per caller
  • Medical Questions: Telephone reference for medical or drug questions are limited to those which require only a short definition or description that can be quoted verbatim without interpretation by the librarian
  • Legal Questions: Telephone reference service for legal questions is limited to reading specific short citations or definitions without interpretation by the librarian
  • Street Address Directory: Street address inquiries are limited to three per caller
  • Stock Quotes: Stock quotes are limited to three per caller
  • Periodical Searches: The staff will check three issues of a newspaper or magazine for requested information, as time permits
  • Product Information: Product rating and recommendations may be given by telephone when a printed source is readily available and brief
  • School Assignments: Up to three short factual answers per student can be given over the telephone. Long passages cannot be read


MCLS staff can provide brief answers to factual reference questions and suggest sources to meet your information needs, via the internet. When appropriate, the reference staff will email attachments in response to a query.

Library Website and Social Media

The Mercer County Library System views the internet as another opportunity to serve its patrons, offering patrons, through our website, catalog, blog, and social media sites, up to date information regarding our branches, programs and services, our online catalog and patron account access, and a host of electronic reference resources are posted on these sites.


The staff will set aside materials they have located for patrons to copy when they come into the library. Public copiers are conveniently located in all of the branches. Copies are $.10 per page. Color copies are not available.

Notary Public Services

The Mercer County Library System offers limited, free notary service, by appointment, to all Mercer County residents.

  • Library notaries are scheduled during the library’s hours of operation, by appointment. Notary services are not available in the fifteen (15) minutes prior to the time of closing.
  • Valid photographic identification is required of any customer seeking notary services.
  • Notary services are limited to three documents per person, per visit.
  • The library will not provide witnesses and witnesses may not be solicited from patrons using the library. In order to serve as a witness, the witness must personally know the person whose document is being notarized and must be in possession of a valid photographic identification.
  • New Jersey law requires that a notary must be able to read the documents to be notarized. Library notaries cannot notarize documents written in languages unfamiliar to them.
  • New Jersey law requires that a notary and the customer seeking notarization must be able to communicate directly with each other.
  • Library notaries are not permitted to make use of a translator to communicate with a notary service customer.
  • Notary Service is not available for all documents. Deeds, Wills, Living Wills, Living Trusts, Codicils, Form I-9’s, Depositions, and electronic banking documents of any kind, are examples of types of documents we cannot notarize as these can require technical or legal knowledge and are beyond the scope of this simple, free service. Please check our website for the full list of items for which notary service is not available.
  • Although the notary cannot attest to true copies of passports, driver’s licenses, etc., the notary will issue a notarized Affidavit of True Copy, which places the responsibility on the person making the copy. Please be aware, should you require a true copy of a birth, death, or marriage certificate with a raised seal, these official copies must come from the appropriate agency.
  • In accordance with New Jersey Notarial Law, notaries will not provide service if the customer, document or circumstances of the request for notary service raises any issue of authenticity, ambiguity, doubt or uncertainty for the library. In this event, the library notary may, at their sole discretion, decline to provide notary service.

The library advises notary service customers to come prepared for notary services:

  • DO NOT sign your document in advance. All documents must be signed in the presence of the notary.
  • All document signers must personally appear before the notary.
  • The notary will ensure that the signer understands the title of the document and is signing freely and willingly.
  • The New Jersey State Treasurer has determined that the following must be performed in any notary acknowledgement transaction: “the notary will review the document presented for completeness. This is not a formal legal review, such as would be performed by an accountant or an attorney. Rather, it is a review to ensure that there are no blanks in the document. Should blanks be discovered, the signer must either fill them in or strike them out by drawing a line or “X” through them.”
  • The notary will establish the identity of each signer through personal knowledge or with valid identification documents. Identification must have both a photo and signature.
  • The notarial certificate will be completed. This may include requiring the signer to give a verbal oath or acknowledgment.
  • The notary will use their stamp or seal on the document.

Museum Passes

The Mercer County Library System makes available various museum passes at no cost to MCLS patrons with the following guidelines. The Museum Pass program is made possible through the generous donations of library support groups.

  • MCLS Patrons in good standing and 18 years of age and older may check out a museum pass with their valid MCLS library card.
  • Passes may be reserved 45 days in advance online through the library’s website or in person at any branch. The date of your reservation is the first day you may pick up the pass.
  • Passes must be picked up and returned only to the owning branch of MCLS. Passes may be returned in the book drop of the owning MCLS branch.
  • Patrons may not check-out the same museum pass multiple times within a 40-day period.
  • Passes are checked-out for a three-day loan period and are not renewable. For example, if a pass is reserved to be picked up on a Friday it must be returned Sunday, regardless whether it was checked out on Friday or Saturday. If the branch is closed the due date, the pass must be returned in the book drop on that date.
  • The extended use fee for an overdue museum pass is $5.00 per day, with a maximum fine of $25. The charge for a lost museum pass is a $10 processing fee plus any extended use fees and replacement cost of the pass.
  • If you fail to pick up a reserved pass twice in a 45-day period you will be blocked from reserving passes for 45 days.
  • If you reserve a pass and then change your plans, you may cancel your reservation by calling any library branch.
  • We advise patrons to check the website of each museum or call before your visit to find out about current hours, unscheduled or unlisted closures, restrictions, special exhibits and information on public transit options.

Interlibrary Loan

The Mercer County Library System (MCLS) provides an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service to borrow materials from and lend materials to libraries located in U.S. states at no charge to accommodate the needs of patrons. The following regulations apply to the ILL service:

  • Requests: The ILL Department will accept three (3) active ILL item requests and three (3) active ILL article requests per MCLS cardholder at one time.
    • “Active” ILL requests include ILL requests that are currently processing as well as ILL items that are currently on hold and checked-out.
    • ILL requests become “inactive” when the ILL Department cannot fulfill the request or when the ILL item has been returned.
    • ILL requests are primarily accepted through the online ILL Request Form on the MCLS website, but will also be accepted by phone or email.
  • Borrowing Restrictions: The ILL Department will not initiate ILL requests for the certain materials.
    • Electronic materials with the exception of articles
    • Fiction Blu-rays and DVDs
    • Launchpads
    • Music CDs
    • Playaways
    • Video Games
  • Borrowing Fees: The ILL Department does not charge ILL borrowing fees to patrons for submitting ILL requests except when the patron would prefer to have their ILL article request be printed out for pick-up at a designated branch.
    • The ILL Department will email the article to the patron at no charge unless the patron specifies in their original ILL request that they would prefer to have the article printed and sent to their designated branch for pick-up. 
    • The costs associated with printing articles obtained through ILL is $0.10 per page in black and white ink and $0.50 per page in color ink.
    • Patrons must pay any print fees associated with the ILL article at the time of the article’s pick-up at their designated branch.
  • Lending Fees: In some instances, there is an ILL lending fee imposed by the lending library to send an item or article through ILL.
    • The ILL Department will always first try to obtain an item or article at no cost to the patron before contacting the patron regarding a potential lending fee.
    • Patrons will not be charged lending fees unless they first agree to submit payment for the fee upon pick-up or receipt of the item or article.
  • Holds: Once an item obtained through ILL has become available for pick-up at a branch, patrons will have five (5) days to pick-up the item at that branch before the item is sent back to the ILL Department and returned to the lending library.
    • Patrons must designate the MCLS branch where the ILL item is to be picked-up at the time of their original ILL request.
    • Sundays, holidays and closures do not count toward the total number of days an ILL item is available for pick-up.
  • Check-outs: ILL items circulate for four (4) weeks.
  • Renewals: One-time renewals on ILL items are not guaranteed and should be requested directly through the ILL Department by phone or email at least three days prior to the item’s due date.
    • One-time renewals on ILL items may range from one (1) week to four (4) weeks depending on the new due date provided by the lending library of the item.
    • Once a request for renewal has been made by a patron, the ILL Department will extend the due date of the ILL item by one (1) week from the day the renewal was requested on while the ILL Department waits to receive a response from the lending library regarding whether or not the item can be renewed. The ILL Department will contact the patron prior to this due date to inform them whether the item can be formally renewed.
  • Returns: Items borrowed by patrons through ILL must be returned to a MCLS branch. The ILL Department will return ILL items to their lending libraries.
  • Extended Use Fees: The extended use fee for any overdue ILL item is $0.25 per day excluding Sundays, holidays and closures.
  • Other Fees: The fees for ILL items returned without their ILL bookstrap or ILL barcode is $2.00 each.
  • Barred Status: Accounts for patrons who do not return ILL items are subject to being placed into “barred” status, regardless of whether or not the fines associated with the ILL item exceed $25.00, preventing the patron from using their account until the item has been returned and the overdue fees associated with the ILL item have been paid.
    • A patron who has an ILL item checked-out and more than two weeks overdue will be notified by the ILL Department that they must return the item before the following week or their account will be barred.
    • A patron who has an ILL item checked-out and more than three weeks overdue will be barred until they return the ILL item or request a one-time renewal on the item, and pay the overdue fines associated with the ILL item.
  • Lost & Damaged Fees: The patron is responsible for all fees charged by the lending library for lost or damaged ILL items currently checked-out to the patron.
  • Suggestions for Purchase: Upon review of an ILL request, the MCLS may fulfill the request as a Suggestion for Purchase instead rather than through ILL.
    • If the MCLS purchases the requested item, the patron will be placed on hold for the item.

Home Borrowers Delivery Service

The home borrowers delivery service provides direct delivery service of library materials to library patrons who are homebound, by volunteers who select the materials. Anyone with a valid Mercer County Library System library card, who is temporarily or permanently homebound, may utilize this service. Patrons may contact the Reference Department at the Lawrence Headquarters Branch or their home branch library for further details.

Email Notification

Patrons who have provided their email address will receive a courtesy email notification of overdue items, an item placed on reserve, and expired hold notices. Patrons will also receive courtesy emails indicating material will be due soon, due today, and then an overdue notification of items that are overdue. Patrons with email notification will also receive card expiration notices and can register for library email blasts and e-newsletters. To opt-out of email notification, patrons may speak to a staff member at any library branch.

Examination Proctoring

In all events of proctoring, MCLS does not charge fees for proctor service; any and all expenditures discussed here are solely for printing, mailing, or reproducing test materials.

MCLS will proctor two types of exams:

  1. Print examinations that are pre-printed and designed to be completed on paper or examinations received electronically from the educational institution by email or electronic download, which are then printed. Printed exams are mailed to the testing institution in their entirety, together with a postage paid return envelope or, if accepted by the institution, returned electronically after having been scanned and uploaded to an approved site, or scanned and sent to the institution as an attachment to an email message (please note that students are responsible for any printing costs associated with the test).
  2. Online at the educational institution’s website, or at a surrogate site approved by the examining institution. Online exams may include unique or specific technical requirements. These requirements should be reviewed with the Reference Department, who will in turn consult with the library’s Information Technology Department, at least one month prior to the administration of the exam, and preferably as soon as any requirement regarding the exam are forwarded to the proctoring branch. Staff at the branches should not attempt to install or alter software on the public or staff PCs in order to administer an exam.

Returning a Completed Exam

Staff will use the envelope and postage provided by the institution. If an envelope and postage are not provided by the institution, neither the mailing enclosure nor the postage will be provided by MCLS; both the mailing enclosure and the postage must be provided by the student to the library personnel administering the examination prior to the commencement of the examination; if the student does not have the requisite mailing enclosure and sufficient postage, the student will not be permitted to take the examination until she or he produces the requisite postage-paid enclosure and postage. In such a case, the examination will be held for 30 days, after which it will be returned to the examining authority or disposed of. In all events, no student will be permitted to place in an enclosed mailer, transport to a mailing site, or otherwise take custody of an examination that has been deemed completed.

At the conclusion of any test, the student will have no further contact with the testing materialnor its return mailing enclosure (if applicable). Library personnel will mail/return the exam as per the educational institution’s instructions. Students may in no way photograph, photocopy, or otherwise reproduce by mechanical or written means, any portion of the completed exam.

B. Circulation of Reference Materials

In general, reference materials are maintained permanently inside the library building so that the resources will be accessible to as many users as possible while the library is open. Many reference tools cannot be taken from the building without causing a severe inconvenience to other library users. The reference needs of the majority are given priority over the needs of the individual. However, since some reference materials are much less in demand than others, some branches may choose to have select reference materials circulate overnight, one per patron, with permission from the Branch Manager or the Reference staff.

C. Reserve Collection for School Assignments

At the request of the faculty or media specialists in schools in participating municipalities, staff may set aside reserve materials to support assignments involving large numbers of students. The materials will be set-aside for the duration of the assignment and must be used in the library. We encourage communication between local schools and the library system by providing fax, phone or email homework / assignment alert sheets.

16. Patron Comments, Complaints, Suggestions

The Mercer County Library System welcomes comments and suggestions from the public. In person, telephone, email comments and concerns will receive immediate attention and acknowledgement by any staff member approached. Any complaints that appear to involve professional judgment will be referred to the Branch Manager or to their designee (i.e. the Circulation Supervisor or Reference Professional on duty at the time). If no supervisor or manager is present at the time, the issue will be referred to the Branch Manager as soon as possible.

If the question relates to administrative policies or any other area that the staff member cannot address, the issue will be referred to the Branch Manager and then, if necessary, to Library Administration for response. All written patron correspondence will be acknowledged or answered in writing as soon as possible. Anonymous complaints will not be considered.

If the library does not have an item that the patron wants, it may have been omitted for any number of reasons, e.g. because the subject is already well covered, because it received unfavorable reviews in the professional journals, or because of general collection development guidelines or budget limitations. Resources are available through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Suggestions for purchase will be considered in accordance with the Mercer County Library System Collection Development Policy, which is available on the library’s website. Suggestions for purchase can be submitted directly to the reference desk, or online via the MCLS website.

If the library owns an item the patron disapproves of, the comment will be referred to the Branch Manager or the Head of Reference. The presence of an item in the collection does not signify an endorsement of that particular item. The Mercer County Library System subscribes to the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights (see Attachment B). If the patron is not satisfied that the item accords with the System Collection Development policy, the patron may complete a request for reconsideration of the library material form (Attachment C). Completed forms will be referred to a materials reevaluation committee, which will review the patron’s objections, in accordance with the reconsideration policy as noted in the Collection Development Policy. The patron will be informed of the results of the reevaluation committee, in writing.

Censorship: The library does not censor materials, including a child’s use of library materials. It is the parent’s or guardian’s prerogative to determine what a child may or may not read. The library will not attempt to indicate an author’s philosophy by using labels or other devices, however, the library will leave attached any rating or label already in place on the material when received by the publisher/vendor.

17. Discards and Donations

The Mercer County Library System periodically accepts donations of books and media materials in good condition from the public, reserving the right to reject a donated item for any reason. All donations are subject to the following provisions:

  • Donations become the sole property of the Mercer County Library System.
  • The library is under no obligation to add a donated item to the collection or to notify the donor of the disposition of that item.
  • The library system reserves the right to decide the best means of dispersing donated materials and equipment.
  • Donations may be added to the collection at the discretion of designated members of the staff, sold by local friends of the library groups or discarded.
  • Materials that are mildewed, wet, smell strongly of odor, or damaged are not accepted for donation at any branch.
  • Only new textbooks are accepted.
  • Magazines are not generally accepted, unless specific arrangements have been made with the Branch Manager prior to donation.

In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and in accordance with the advisement of the federal and state governmental safety recommendations, anonymous donations will not be accepted at any location and will be discarded. Please present donations at the desk. Patrons may be asked to present identification when dropping off donations.

At a patron’s request, a receipt stating the number of items will be provided. As per the IRS tax laws, the library staff cannot assign a monetary value to donations.

18. Internet Use

The Mercer County Library System offers internet access as a part of its mission to be the gateway to the growing universe of information by developing and providing open access to services and resources which are responsive to, and representative of, the diverse recreational, cultural and educational interests of the community. The Mercer County Library System takes pride in offering information and educational resources in many formats to its patrons. Resources available on the internet supplement and complement the collections of the Mercer County Library System.

Anyone using the library internet or WiFi access is required to review and agree to the library’s Internet Use Agreement before using the internet or WiFi.

The Mercer County Library System supports the interpretation of the American Library Association’s Access to Electronic Information, Services, and Networks; an Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, which can be found in Attachment B, Library Bill of Rights.

A. Accuracy and Availability of Information

The internet and its available resources may contain controversial material. The Mercer County Library System has no control over the information accessed through the internet and cannot be held responsible for its content. Library users access the internet at their own discretion and are individually and totally responsible for any material they retrieve.

The library staff cannot control the availability of information links, which often change rapidly and unpredictably. Not all sources on the internet provide accurate, complete, or current information. Users need to be good information consumers, questioning the validity of the information they find on the internet. Users may seek help from professional librarians to verify information.

As time permits, a brief introduction to the use of the computer will be provided. Library staff is not available to offer extensive hands-on assistance to each computer user but will attempt to give limited assistance, when possible. The library offers classes and special programs, including one-on-one tutorials, as well as offering an online support form, for patrons requiring more in-depth help. Patrons may find these classes listed on the library’s website, or in the printed branch calendars.

B. Child Safety on the Internet

Parents or guardians are responsible for the internet information selected and/or accessed by their children. Children who use the internet unsupervised may be exposed to inappropriate or disturbing information and images. Since wireless internet access in the library is unfiltered, parents and guardians are advised to place appropriate controls on, or restrict the use of, any personal mobile devices that may be used by minors for whom they are responsible.

Parents are encouraged to discuss the use of the internet in relation to family values and boundaries with their children and to monitor their children’s use of the internet. To assist parents, the library can recommend the internet safety information found on the website of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The website for additional information is Also, parents may find information on the website of the American Library Association, Great Websites for Kids. Patrons can also seek guidance on appropriate sources of information from the Youth Services and Reference staff.

The internet is filtered based on the location of the PC. PCs located in the designated Children’s sections are filtered using a CIPA (Child Internet Protection Act) compliant filter.

C. Rights and Responsibilities of Users

  • Many library computers on which the public can access the internet are located in public areas that must be shared by library users of all ages, backgrounds and sensibilities. Individuals are asked to consider this point when accessing potentially controversial information and images.
  • Patrons may request, or be asked to use, privacy screens, or may have their sessions terminated if the content they are viewing is of a private or controversial nature.
  • Library personnel do not monitor or supervise the internet access except for length of time of use. If internet searching results in disruption of library services, or if patron behavior when using internet resources becomes inappropriate for a library setting, the library reserves the right to end the session.
  • Viewing illegal materials, such as child pornography, or using the internet so as to cause harm to others and/or engage in illegal activity are considered inappropriate uses of our resources. Library patrons observed using the internet and PCs inappropriately will have their internet session terminated. The library reserves the right to revoke or suspend the library privileges or seek legal prosecution of patrons viewing illegal or inappropriate materials.

D. Inappropriate Use of Library Computers

Inappropriate use of the computers of the Mercer County Library System includes, but is not limited to:

  • Interfering, altering or damaging any library computer program, including disabling electronic filters.
  • Use of the internet workstations to gain unauthorized access to the library’s computer system or any other network or computer system.
  • Violating the security system of the library’s computers or any other network computer system.
  • Using any library workstation for illegal or criminal purposes.
  • Violating copyright laws or software licenses or agreements.
  • Employing the library’s computers for libel, slander, forgery, and fraud or to transmit threatening or harassing material.
  • Displaying, sending, receiving or printing text, images or graphics of obscene material or materials harmful to minors.
  • Displaying, sending, receiving or printing text, images or graphics that violate laws relating to child pornography.
  • Engaging in activity that is deliberately offensive or creates an intimidating or hostile environment for library staff and patrons.
  • New Jersey Statute 2C:34-4 prohibits public communication of obscene material. Any patron viewing such material in a way that is publicly visible to other patrons or staff will be asked to use a privacy screen, refrain from viewing the material, or have their internet session terminated.

The library system takes seriously its obligation to provide an environment that is amenable to the information needs of many types of patrons, as well as their confidentiality. The library extends its privacy and confidentiality policy to all users of the internet. Patrons may request the use of a privacy screen at any time, and a screen will be provided by staff contingent upon the availability of a screen. If a staff member, at any time, believes that material displayed on a screen may distract or interfere with other patrons, the staff member may, at their sole discretion, direct the patron viewing such material to place a privacy screen on the computer screen. Failure to comply with such a directive may result in termination of a patron’s computer session.

Patrons must use their own barcode to log-on. The use of a barcode other than their own will result in a suspension of computer privileges.

E. EnvisionWare Registration Software

EnvisionWare software is a PC and internet registration software product that runs on public access computers in academic and public libraries.

For each computer session, the software prompts the user to type in their library barcode number to uniquely identify themselves. The software validates the barcode number against a database of authorized users.

Internet users will need one of three cards to access the internet:

  1. Mercer County Library System Library Card issued in the patron’s name.
  2. Internet-Only Card: Patrons not eligible for a traditional library card, but who would like to purchase an internet only card may do so for a one- time fee of $2.00. This card will only allow use of PC stations; internet-only cardholders will not be able to check out library materials. Internet-only cards are valid for one year from date of issuance, and renewable with a valid photographic ID, with current address. If lost, there is a $2.00 replacement fee.
  3. Guest Internet Pass: Individuals who are visiting the library and do not wish to register for a library card, but want to use our PCs, may obtain a guest pass. Guests should see a staff member for a guest pass. Registration will require some form of photographic identification, such as a driver’s license or school identification card. Staff may use their discretion in issuing a guest internet pass in the event that the patron does not have a photographic ID.

F. Duration of Usage

  • Library cardholders and Internet-Only cardholders will be allowed a standard allotment of 120 minutes of PC time per day. Patrons can use their allotted time all in one session, or in any increments the patron wishes, but patrons must have a minimum of 10 minutes of time remaining in order to log-on.
  • Guest Use. Guest passes are available for a standard allotment of 60 minutes of PC time per day.
  • Express PCs. Are available for 20-minute sessions.

G. Supplementary Time

Supplementary time may be granted for users who are approaching the limit of their standard allotment, and need to continue working beyond that limit. Patrons may request up to 30 minutes of additional time in addition to their standard allotment, subject to the indications specified below. Individuals using the Express PCs may request up to 20 minutes of additional time, subject to the indications specified below.

H. Limitations on Supplementary Time

Limitations on supplementary time will be imposed whenever there is a reasonably based risk that supplementary time on the computer would deprive another patron or guest the opportunity to make use of a public computer. If all public access computers are in use when a request for supplementary time is made, staff may decline to grant supplementary time, or limit supplementary time in 15 minutes increments, until another computer becomes available.

I. Saving, Printing and Downloading

If patrons wish to save a copy of their work, they may bring a flash drive for downloading. Information can be saved to the hard drive temporarily, but will be deleted when the patron logs-off or if the patron’s session expires.

Patrons are responsible for logging off properly by using the “end session” button. Failure to do so may result in the temporary retention of personal information. Patrons should ask staff if they are unsure how to properly sign out of a session. To protect privacy, anything saved on the PCs will be deleted once the session ends. This includes files, passwords or website history. The software the library uses does not track internet activity.

Black and white printing cost $.10 per page. Color printing is $.50 per page. All printing may be paid at the reference desk.

If a patron experiences difficulty in using a computer they should notify staff immediately. They should not attempt to shut-off or reboot the computer; the PC will automatically reboot when a patron logs-off or their time expires.

The library reserves the right to terminate an internet session at any time. Staff can only provide limited assistance with internet searching and computer use.

19. Library Programs

The Mercer County Library System plans and conducts activities designed to inform, educate, or culturally enrich the public. These activities utilize the library and/or community resources in order to promote awareness of the library and its offerings, extend the use of various collections, and provide a forum for sharing community information.

  • Interfering with, altering, or damaging any computer or network equipment, including physical damage, removal or movement of equipment or connected devices and cables.
  • Unauthorized attempts to access or alter the library network, including using a non-library issued device outside of the public WiFi network, proxies, VPNs and direct ethernet connection to the wired network.

The library offers a variety of programs for different ages and interest groups. Library programs allow for the expression of a variety of viewpoints. A Branch Manager or their designee may allow a commercial, for-profit organization to present information to the community through a library sponsored program or event. Examples of such programs might include, but are not limited to, estate planning, college funding, small business seminar, garden lecture series, etc. This is a legitimate method for the library to offer its public timely information presented by knowledgeable or skilled professionals.

In these cases, the organization may not sell materials or merchandise, charge a fee, solicit contributions, engage in fund-raising projects, conduct profit-making ventures or solicit a client base prior to, or during the program. The branch hosting the program either must advertise the program or must review and approve any advertisement the group may wish to do prior to publication. Promotional material must state that permission to use the community rooms does not imply library sponsorship or endorsement of any group, product or program. The County logo should only be placed on library-initiated advertisement and not on publicity the group itself publishes.

All library programs are open to the public. The library system or branch hosting the program may take registration for library programs. Registration may not be taken by the business or organization itself. The library may require advanced registration in order to limit attendance to a reasonable number or to an appropriate age group. When limited space is available, the library may limit registration to Mercer County Library System cardholders. Registration requirements and program information are publicized in advance.

The Library’s mission is to offer a variety of programs designed to educate, inform, or culturally enrich the public. In order to avoid oversaturation on a particular topic or a monopolization of meeting space, the same group or presenter will not be approved to present the same program for a continuous period of time, unless the library in its sole discretion determines that the program will provide an exceptional benefit to the community and matches the library’s mission. Lecture series or theme programs that may continue over a period of several months are not included.

The library staff continuously evaluates program offerings on the basis of their contributions to library service objectives. Attendance statistics, patron evaluation, overall quality, funding and public relations are all valuable considerations for continuing or modifying programs. (See Attachment F)

20. Library Outreach

A. Definition of Outreach

Any library service or program that requires dedicated staff time towards a targeted or specific group of clients or individuals is considered to be a library outreach service event. This may include library tours, story-times, an invitation to a performance program, instruction classes for the library’s electronic resources and on-site visits by library staff to schools, organizations or outside meeting places to promote the library’s services and collections to its patrons. Additionally, library outreach may consist of participation at outside community fairs and events attended by the public.

B. Goal of Outreach

The library’s goal in providing outreach is to promote the library’s mission and library services to patrons in the member municipalities of the Mercer County Library System, which include: East Windsor, Ewing, Hightstown, Hopewell Township, Lawrence, Robbinsville, and West Windsor.

C. Requests for Outreach

Requests for outreach from a group or agency should be made to a department head or Branch Manager at the Mercer County Library branch in which the group is physically located. Advanced notice is suggested.

D. Approval of Outreach Services

Several factors may govern the approval of outreach requests. Approval is contingent on availability of staff and/or space accommodation. Priority will be given to groups located in the branch’s municipality and those groups that are made up of a majority of individuals who have or can prove eligibility for a resident Mercer County Library card in one of our member municipalities. Proof may be required, such as library card barcode number, or address. Non-profit groups may be given priority. Groups or agencies from non-member municipalities who are requesting outreach may be referred to the library where they are eligible for free library cards. The allocation of staff time and resources dedicated toward outreach will be balanced with all other normal branch services and programming.

E. Frequency of Outreach Services

Frequency of requests may sometimes be limited at the discretion of the Branch Manager. At some branches, outreach to youth is routinely provided during the school year from September through June as staffing permits. In the summer, staff time and branch resources may be dedicated to providing increased services and programs to meet the demands of the library system’s high-volume summer reading program and therefore, outreach to groups may be limited. At some locations, pre-arranged summer outreach may be scheduled. Some branches may approve outreach requests to groups, camps or day-cares in the summer based on branch staffing and programming patterns. This is at the discretion of the library system.

F. Group Use of Library Community Rooms

The library’s community room policy is separate and distinct from outreach. An eligible group wishing to book a community room for meeting use may do so via the community room registration form, available at any branch, or on our website.

G. General Visit Information

Groups wishing to visit the library for any reason are welcome to do so, observing the normal standards and rules for patron conduct and the system policies. Group leaders are urged to visit the physical setting of a branch before bringing a group in to confirm the necessary seating space around the public areas of the library.

H. Group Attendance from Non-Member Municipalities

Throughout the summer and other peak times throughout the year, there is often strong interest by groups wishing to attend performance and other programs advertised as part of the summer reading program, school holiday, etc. Groups or agencies from non-member municipalities who are requesting to attend these programs may be referred to the library where they are eligible for free library cards.

I. Registration Processes

All advertised processes for registration of library programs should be observed by everyone. In some cases, Friends of the Library sponsored programming may be advertised with a space limit, and with presentation of a valid MCLS library card. Some branches may grant permission for groups to attend summer programs as space permits. Frequency of requests may sometimes be limited at the discretion of the Branch Manager.

21. Exhibits

As an educational, cultural and informational institution, the library provides space for exhibits initiated by the library or requested by a community group or individual (see Attachment D).

The Branch Manager or their designee in those locations where space permits coordinates exhibits. The library is not responsible for loss or damage to any property and does not provide insurance for any exhibit or display in the library. The owner assumes sole responsibility.

The library reserves the right for approval of materials on display. Prices or price lists and biographical information about the artist or owner may be distributed, however, sales of materials are strictly prohibited in the library. A commercial company may exhibit as long as the primary purpose of the display is aesthetic, informational and/or educational and not of a promotional nature for the company.

The walls of the community rooms and library may be used for displaying artwork wherever feasible, however, no holes are to be made in the walls of either. Exhibits may be displayed for the maximum period of one calendar month unless the Branch Manager or their designee has approved an extended period.

Materials may be accepted for display as long as they do not advocate any political action or promote religious views. Displaying or distributing material does not in any way signify an endorsement by the library of either the content of the display, literature or the organization from which it comes. Mercer County Library System does not advocate or endorse the viewpoints of exhibits or exhibitors. All exhibitors must provide a description of their exhibit or display to be placed near or on the display in view of the public.

Organizations or individuals not related to the library are not permitted to solicit donations from patrons through receptacles or any other means.

(Revised by County Legal Department, 02/2014)

22. Community Rooms

The Mercer County Library System provides community rooms for the use of eligible groups to hold meetings for the purpose of conducting business or otherwise serving their membership. Please note, the library reserves the right to deny a room if it is believed that the number of parking spaces potentially taken by meeting participants would negatively impact simultaneous library programming or use. The use of these rooms is considered a public service and as such are subject to the following rules and regulations:

A. Eligibility of Users

Community rooms of the Mercer County Library System are available without charge to any civic association, study, recreational, social, and cultural or community group, a substantial proportion of whose membership resides in the Mercer County Library System service area. Organizations must not be in violation of any Federal, State, or local law (see Community Room Registration Form, Attachment E).

B. Responsibilities of Users

Supervision of Children

Meetings that are primarily for children must include at least one responsible adult for every 15 children in attendance.

Promotion and Advertisement
  • Any advertisement must be reviewed by the Branch Manager or their designee before publication.
  • Promotional material must state that permission to use the community rooms does not imply library sponsorship or endorsement of any group or program.
  • The Mercer County logo should not be used on promotional materials the group may publish.
Condition of the Room

The authorized representative is responsible for the condition of the community room. It should be left clean, neat, chairs replaced on racks, lights off, windows closed, and doors locked, if so directed.

C. Logistics

  • An authorized representative of the organization will arrange scheduling with the Branch Manager or designee. The representative is required to complete a registration form and sign a statement of responsibility.
  • Access to the community room is not available prior to opening of the building.
  • Simple refreshments may be served in the community rooms.
  • The library is not able to store or provide supplies for any group.
  • The library does not provide projectors, laptops, or other multimedia devices.
  • The library is not responsible for loss or damage to any group’s property or injury to any person occurring during use of the community room. Damage to library property is the responsibility of the authorized representative.

D. Prohibited Activities

  • Fundraising projects (non-library sponsored) and commercial profit-making ventures may not be conducted.
  • Private parties (birthdays, showers, retirement, and family reunions) are examples of activities that are not eligible for community room use.
  • Fees may not be charged. Meetings must be free and open to the public.
  • Contributions may not be solicited.
  • Alcoholic beverages or drugs are not permitted.
  • Activities that disturb other library patrons will not be tolerated and will result in termination of the meeting by the Branch Manager.

E. Denial of Future Use

  • Failure to comply with any of the conditions stated above will result in the denial of future use of the community rooms.
  • Failure to show up for three consecutive meetings will result in denial of future use.

23. Bulletin Boards

The bulletin boards located in the entrance ways or vestibules of the library entrance are meant to serve as a source of community and local information for patrons. The Mercer County Library System reserves the right to screen materials submitted for posting on the bulletin boards.

Materials may be posted providing the following:

  • The item is not an unattended petition
  • The item does not promote illegal activity
  • Legal announcements are acceptable
  • The item does not require a disproportionate amount of space
  • The item is considered to meet general standards of good taste
  • The library may limit the length of time any item is to be displayed
  • County, municipal agencies and civic associations will receive priority when space is limited
  • The item must be initialed and dated by a library staff member. Initialing in no way implies endorsement of posting

Inside display of materials is reserved for library, county, state, municipal or related non-profit associations. No other material is accepted for inside display, including collection or donation receptacles.

Displaying and/or distributing material does not in any way signify an endorsement by the library of either the contents of the literature or of the organization from which it comes.

24. Petitions

Unattended petitions may not be circulated or placed in the libraries. However, the library grounds are public property and citizens may solicit signatures on petitions outside of the building. Inclement weather may cause a petitioner to want to come inside the building. The Branch Manager or their designee may accommodate the petitioner in the vestibule of the building, if the petitioner does not block access to the entrance or egress or disrupt the operation of the library or harass the patrons of the library.

25. Filming and Photography Policy

The Mercer County Library System recognizes that it is a vital resource for library users and community members.

Under the First Amendment definition of public forums, public libraries are considered limited or non- public forums, as they are purposefully opened by the government for designated activities and are traditionally not used for expressive activities, as would be a public park, public street, public sidewalk or public square. Because public libraries are considered a limited public forum, constitutional protection is afforded only to those expressive activities that are consistent with the mission and purpose of the library as set forth by the government’s intention in establishing it, which is the purpose of receiving information and accessing the library’s books, programs, and online resources. Other activities, such as photography, filming, petition-gathering, assemblies, and public speeches, may be regulated by the library using reasonable, viewpoint neutral, time, place and manner rules. In order to protect library users who may be endangered or inconvenienced by having their photo or video taken in the library, the library has adopted these basic guidelines for photographers, whether professional or amateur in order to:

  • The taking of photographs or videos must not interfere with anyone’s enjoyment or use of the library.
  • Taking photographs or videos is prohibited in nonpublic areas, staff areas, restrooms, quiet study spaces or community rooms, or positioned in a way that identifies a person’s reading, viewing or listening activities while in the library; this includes the circulation desk and material holding area.
  • The photographer will not take photos or video record in areas of the library where patrons are using library services.
  • The photographer will honor the requests by anyone who does not wish to be photographed or recorded.
  • Minors may not be photographed or recorded without the consent of a parent or guardian, except by library staff during library-sponsored programs and except by library staff incidentally in group or crowd photos.
  • The use of tripods, stand-alone lighting equipment and microphones or other accessories is not permitted without the permission of the County of Mercer, through the Mercer County Library Administration.

Library staff members may terminate any photo or video sessions they determine to be in violation of the above guidelines or inconsistent with reasonable public use of the library or public safety.

Any persons filming or photographing on library premises have sole responsibility for gaining all necessary releases and permissions from persons who are filmed or photographed. The library assumes no responsibility for obtaining these releases.

News Media Photography and Recording

The library allows news media photographers and reporters who are doing stories or projects that directly involve the library and its programs. The library requests that media contact the manager at a location, Library Administration, or the County of Mercer Communications Department prior to any planned photo shoot and respect the guidelines that apply to all photographers.

As a center of civic engagement, the library recognizes that it may act as a venue for gauging community opinions on local topics. As such, news media are permitted to use the library for stories or projects that do not relate to the library, including conducting opinion polls and interviews on non-library issues. The library requests that media contact the branch manager, Library Administration or the Mercer County Communications Department prior to any planned on-site interviews or polls.

Commercial Photography and Recording

 In general, the library does not permit commercial photography inside library facilities. This includes, but is not limited to, using the library as a stage set for model photography, engagement or wedding photography, product photography or as a recording location for television or online advertising regardless of whether the advertised goods or services relate to the library. The Director may grant exceptions library cardholders who submit specifics of the proposed photo or video shoot to Library Administration or the Mercer County Communications Department.

Photography and Recording by Program Partners

Mercer County area organizations that regularly partner with the library on free library events may use photos or recordings taken during these events in promotional material. If one of the library’s partner organizations intends to arrange for a video or audio recording of an event that is scheduled to take place within the library, this request should be made at least five business days in advance to the respective branch manager or Library Administration.

Please note: even when permission to record a program is granted, the photographing and recording of minors who attend such programs is not permitted.

Photography and Recording by Groups Reserving Library Space For Non-Library Events

Groups meeting in the library community rooms may arrange for photography during their event. Photography for such events is restricted to the space reserved by the group, may not take place in other areas of the library and must comply with library policy regarding commercial photography and recording.

Photography by the Library

The Mercer County Library System frequently engages in photographing during programs and events for its own publicity and promotional purposes, including its website, annual report and social media. Library staff will make every effort to notify members of the public when photography is taking place. Please notify a library staff member if you do not want to be photographed.