Mercer County Library System Policies


The Mercer County Library System 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, information, recreational, and cultural needs of our diverse community, and strives to encourage a lifelong interest in reading.


The facilities of the Mercer County Library System are supported by County member municipalities, which include: East Windsor, Ewing, Hightstown, Hopewell Township, Lawrence, Twin Rivers, 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.

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


On January 26, 1992, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) took effect. This law grants civil rights protection to individuals with or without disabilities and without regard to race, gender, national origin, disability or religion. The ADA guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in the areas of employment, services and programs sponsored by a state or local government, public transportation and telecommunications offered to the public. The ADA provides comprehensive civil rights protection for qualified individuals with disabilities. An individual with a disability is a person who:

  • Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity;
  • Has a record of such an impairment; or
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment

Under Title II (State and Local Governments), the ADA requires the County to guarantee that all activities, services, and programs provided to the public be accessible. This includes open meetings, public hearings, the Legislative and Executive Branches of County government, courts, police, fire and emergency services, school districts, polling places and employment. Mercer County must provide auxiliary aids, such as interpreters for people who are deaf or hard of hearing; large print and Braille materials for people who are blind or visually impaired; and other alternative formats and methods of communication to visitors with disabilities who have requested these aids.

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 library directly at 989-6923 V/TTY or call the New Jersey Relay Service at 1-800-852-7899. New Jersey State Library for the Blind provides a variety of services for persons with disabilities. For more information individuals may call 609-292-6450.


Anyone age 18 or over who lives, works, owns property or attends school in East Windsor, Ewing, Hightstown, Hopewell Township, Lawrenceville, Twin Rivers, Washington, or West Windsor may obtain a free library card. Students age 14-17 may obtain a card upon presentation of a valid, current student ID, without a parent or guardian signature. Children under the age of 14 may obtain a card with a parent or guardian signature. Legal verification must be provided by guardians.

Non-Resident Cards: Any non-resident 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.

Business Cards: Business cards are issued as a courtesy for specific use by the patron to whom the card is issued. Permission to use the courtesy card by persons other than the specific patron will not be granted. Family members of business card holders may purchase a card if they wish to do so. These cards are renewable annually with verification of current employment.

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, upon presentation of a current, valid student identification card or current class schedule or current tuition bill. These cards are renewable annually upon presentation of appropriate verification.

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 with the presentation of a valid identification, including address, and payment of a fee of $2.00 per year. These cards will only allow the patron to use the Internet stations and not to check out library materials.

Guest Internet Cards: Individuals who are visiting the library to use our PC or Internet stations for a one-time visit may obtain a Guest Internet Card. Registration will require some form of identification, such as a driver’s license. Guests may register for Internet Cards three times in a six-month period during one calendar year, after that they will be required to purchase an Internet Only Card.

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.

A resident of a member municipality is issued a free library card upon completion of an application, to include a social security number or active driver’s license number, and presentation of identification that verifies residency.

The following will be accepted as proof of residency:

  • Valid New Jersey Driver’s License
  • Valid New Jersey Motor Vehicle registration
  • Check from a local bank with imprinted address
  • Current rental lease, receipt or deed
  • A current utility bill addressed to the individual
  • Current High 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

A Non-Resident card or an Internet Only card is issued upon completion of an application, presentation of current, valid identification with address and payment of annual fee.

A Business card is issued upon completion of an application, presentation of current, valid proof of employment, such as a recent pay stub, dated work identification or letter of eligibility from an employer. A business card may be accepted to initially activate a business card library account providing the following information is imprinted on the card: the person’s name; and the organization’s name and local address. Business library cards are renewable annually at no cost, providing the patron can verify their current eligibility; business cards may not be accepted as proof of eligibility for annual renewal.


All residents’ library cards are subject to annual renewal requiring reverification of residency. All non-residents’ library cards are subject to annual renewal requiring re-verification of address and either payment of annual fee or presentation of other proof of eligibility.

The patron 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.


Borrowing privileges are extended to Plainsboro Public Library cardholders according to the reciprocal borrowing agreement of 1993 and amended in 1994, between Mercer County Library and Plainsboro Public Library.


The Mercer County Library System has a reciprocal borrowing agreement with the Mercer County Community College Library. Most circulating materials owned by the College Library may be placed on reserve by Mercer County Library System cardholders for pick-up at any Mercer County Library System branch. The procedure for placing College Library materials on reserve is the same as if the Mercer County Library System owned the item. The MCLS' loan period and fine schedule apply to all College materials borrowed through MCLS. College materials checked out at a MCLS branch are to be returned to a Mercer County Library System branch; the Library will record the item as being returned and forward the item to the Community College Library.


The Mercer County Library System is part of the Literacy Volunteers of America, Mercer County Chapter, which is coordinated by LVA. Tutors and students who live outside of our borrowing area may apply for a complimentary library card because of their participation in the Mercer County LVA Program. Staff will issue a LVA Card, which is renewable annually. The student or tutor must verify their current participation in the Mercer County LVA Program. Staff may waive overdue fines for materials used in tutoring. The LVA cards may only be used to check out materials associated with tutoring, i.e. Adult Basic Reading materials and children's books. 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 Mercer County LVA Coordinator and may suspend library privileges to particular individuals. Free copying is made available to individual tutors working with a student. Literacy groups as a whole or as an organization are not permitted to use the copiers free of charge. Tutors must contact the Branch Manager or their designee to reserve the community room for tutoring sessions. Tutors and students are responsible for contacting each other directly regarding 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:

  • Bringing food or drink into the library.
  • Smoking (NJSA 2C:3D-38 Smoking in a public place)
  • Improper attire, including bare feet or chests.
  • Consumption of alcohol or use of illegal substances
  • Intoxication (NJSA 2C:33-2 Disorderly Conduct)
  • 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 they are being trained by a recognized companion-animal training agency or school or are accompanying a person with vision, hearing, or mobility impairment as a companion-animal or unless they are part of a pre-approved educational program being sponsored by the library. (NJSA 10:5-29 Blind or partially Blind person accompanied by a guide dog)
  • Misusing the restrooms (i.e. using as a laundry or washing facility). (NJSA 2C:33-12 Maintaining a nuisance)
  • Patrons whose bodily hygiene is so offensive as to cause a nuisance to others shall be required to leave the building. Nuisance is defined as unduly interfering with others' use of the library. This will include the repair or cleanliness of garments. Patrons are expected to wear appropriate clothing while using library facilities, including shirts and shoes.
  • Leaving a child [our particular interpretation of this rule stipulates a child under the age of 13] unattended in the library. (NJSA 2C:53A-14,15 Negligence)
  • Talking loudly, making noise or engaging in disruptive behavior, including the use of loud or offensively coarse or abusive language. This includes the use of cell phones in the public areas of the library. Cell phone use is permitted in the lobby areas of each facility 
  • 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, throwing objects, playing on steps, in entrances or in the building
  • Panhandling or soliciting
  • Damaging library property, including damaging restrooms, defacing furniture and walls, removing pages from books, vandalizing books, destroying landscaping or outdoor fixtures (NJSA 2C: 17-3 Criminal mischief)
  • Stealing library materials. (NJSA 2C:20-12,13,14 Theft of Library Materials)
  • Threatening or physically harming staff or patrons
  • Striking, kicking, shoving or other offensive touching or threats to do so. (NJSA 2C:33-4 Harassment)
  • Other behavior that is deemed inappropriate or disruptive by the Library Staff.

Library privileges may be terminated for repeated violations 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.

The Library has legal recourse against the following categories of behavior: assault, harassment, criminal mischief, child abandonment, theft, threatening or physically harming staff or patrons, disorderly persons, public communication of obscenity, criminal trespass, loitering and vandalism.

10.a. Cell Phone Usage Cell phone usage is not permitted in the library. Cell phone usage is limited to the lobby, vestibule or outside areas of the buildings.


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, anybody can come into it, law-abiding or otherwise. Leaving a child unattended in the library is a violation of NJSA 2C:53A-14,15 Negligence. 

Library staff has 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 playing a computer game or playing in the Children's Area. Exceptions to this policy occur when programming requires children to attend 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 an 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 13 who are left unattended at the close of business will  be considered stranded. Staff will be instructed to wait approximately 20 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.


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. The cardholder is responsible for the materials borrowed or charges incurred against his / her library card.

Check Out Without Presenting A Library Card: The Mercer County Library 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 and integrity of a patron's record. All patrons are required to present their card when checking out materials and when placing items on reserve.

In the event that the patron does not have his/her card in their immediate possession, he/she will be asked for an alternative form of identification, such as a driver's license. A block will be placed on the patron's record indicating non-presentation of library card and the patron will be expected to bring his/her card on the next visit or purchase a replacement card for a cost of $2.00. Staff will only 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 the original card and will be reissued a new card for the replacement cost of $2.00.

PC Use Without a Library Card: In the event that the patron does not have his/her Library Card or Internet Only Card in their immediate possession and would like to use the public PCs, he/she will be asked for an alternative form of identification, such as a driver's license, work or school ID. This will be done as a courtesy to our PC users, however, our policy does require a patron to have in their possession a library card for check out and PC use. A note will be placed on their record stating that the patron did not have library card with them and we will expect that they will have their card next time. After a three-month time period it will be assumed that the original card has been lost or misplaced and the patron will be reissued a new card for the replacement cost of $2.00.

Resident Card Holders who wish to allow other persons or family members to use their card to pick up items placed on hold are responsible for informing the Library, in person, of who has permission. A message will be placed on the patron's record, stating that permission has been granted, and the user must present the card when visiting the Library. The patron issued the card is fully responsible for materials borrowed and charges incurred on the card.

Resident Minor Card Holders: Minors ages 14-17 may obtain a card without the signature of a parent or guardian. In order to sign for a minor child, the library account of the parent(s) or guardian(s) must be in good standing and not barred or delinquent. Children under the age of 14 may obtain a library card with a parent or guardian’s signature, therefore, the use of a minor’s card by the authorizing parent or guardian is implied. During the application process, a message should be placed on the minor child’s record indicating that the authorizing parent or guardian may use the card. Patrons are reminded that only the authorizing individual(s) will be allowed this privilege and that if both parents or guardians will wish to use the minor card, both must sign the application. This privilege only extends to the authorizing parent(s) or guardian(s) and not to other members of the family. In all cases the card must be present for check out.

Non-Resident Cards: As a courtesy to our non-resident patrons who pay for their library privileges, we will issue courtesy 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.

Senior Cards: As a courtesy to our non-resident senior citizen patrons who pay for their library privileges, we will issue courtesy cards to a senior spouse (over the age of 62) and any minor child(ren) living in the household. The Library will not issue a free library card to any other adult living in the household.

Student & Business Cards: These types of cards are issued as a courtesy for specific use by the patron to whom the card is issued. Permission to use these courtesy cards by persons other than the specific patron will not be granted. Family members of student and business card holders may purchase a card if they wish to do so.


Loan periods, item limits and fines vary by type of material and item demand (see Fine And Fee Schedule). 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. Holds/Reserves: A hold can be placed on any circulating material, with the exception of periodicals. If not filled, a hold will be cancelled after twelve months. The patron will be notified when cancellation occurs. When a reserved item is checked in at a branch library, it will be held for a patron for three working days from the check in date. If a hold item is not picked up within three working days, the hold is automatically cancelled and the item is either sent to the next patron or returned to its home location.

B. Renewals: Circulating materials may be renewed twice in person, by phone or via our catalog, with the following exceptions:

  • ILL Materials are not automatically renewable. Contact the ILL Office (609-883-0245 or no later than three (3) days prior to due date to determine if a one-time renewal of the item is possible.
  • Videos/DVDs can be renewed, if there are no holds pending.
  • Items on Hold for another patron cannot be renewed.

If a patron requires the continued use of an item after the item has exceeded maximum renewals the patron must present the item in person. The item must be checked-in and can be immediately checked back out to the patron in the following circumstances:

  • The item is not on reserve for another patron
  • There is at least one other copy, which is in a “checked-in” status, available in the library system
    ILL / OCLC Materials cannot be renewed under any circumstance
  • Staff are not to override the maximum renewal – the item must be present and checked-in and then checked back out on the patron’s library account

C. Lost Material: When an item has been overdue for 120 days it is considered lost and the patron is 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 present an exact duplicate of the item, in excellent condition. Substitutions are only accepted with permission from the Branch Manager or their designee.

D. Claims Return Material: If a patron claims 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 from “claims return” to “lost”. The patron will be responsible for the lost item charges.

E. Damaged Material: Patrons are responsible for replacement or payment of damaged materials, as these items cannot be circulated due to the damage. A $2.00 processing fee will be attached to all lost or damaged materials.

F. Delinquent Patrons: Borrowing privileges are rescinded when the total fines / lost materials charges on a patron’s card exceeds $25.00. This policy is required to ensure the availability of materials to all users. When the overdue materials are returned and/or all charges are resolved to a $0.00 balance, borrowing privileges will be reinstated. A patron with outstanding Interlibrary Loan materials will become delinquent, regardless if the amount equals or exceeds $25.00. When the ILL materials are returned and/or all charges associated with the loan of ILL materials are resolved, borrowing privileges will be reinstated.

G. 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 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.

H. 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, curtailing excessive individual demand detrimental to the constituency at large. Fees are set periodically. Since 1996 fees have been:

  • 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 annually
  • Rewind fee for videocassettes: $1.00
  • Photocopies: $ .10 per page
  • Photocopies and faxed materials sent from other Branches, to include certain ILL faxes and photocopies: $ .10 per page
  • Audiovisual material returned in the bookdrop: $1.00
  • Audiovisual plastic cases destroyed/lost: $ .50
  • Damage to barcode, labels, inserts: $2.00 processing fee
  • Missing videocassette cardboard sleeves; missing DVD inserts: $2.00 processing fee
  • Missing Read-a-long bag: $ .50

I. Damage to a Patron’s AV Equipment: Mercer County Library System is not responsible for damage to home electronic equipment that may occur during use of Mercer County Library materials.

N.J.S.A. 18A:73-43.2. Confidentiality of library users' records
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:
a. The records are necessary for the proper operation of the library;
b. Disclosure is requested by the user; or
c. Disclosure is required pursuant to a subpoena issued by a court or court order. L.1985, c. 172, 2.

The circulation records, including name, address, status of borrowers, titles of materials currently on loan, dates of transactions, PC registration data, and reserve files, of the Mercer County Library System are confidential regardless of the source of inquiry.

The Mercer County Library System is committed to the confidentiality of our patrons and does act in accordance with New Jersey’s Confidentiality of Library Records Law, NJSA 18A:73-43.1, which prohibits the Library from disclosing library records unless directed to do so through a court order or subpoena as may be authorized by law.

If not in proper form or if good cause has not been shown, the County Counsel will take appropriate action in court to cure such defects before any records are released.

Any threats or unauthorized demands (i.e. those not supported by process, order or subpoena) concerning circulation records shall be reported to the Mercer County Counsel’s Office. Any questions relating to the privacy of circulation records, which are not provided for above, are to be referred to the Mercer County Library System Administration.

The parent(s) or legal guardian(s) of a minor child(ren) are entitled to information relating to the use of a minor child’s card, 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 parental / guardian signature appears, the library will not disclose information regarding the account with anyone other than the patron unless that patron authorizes such disclosure or the parent or guardian signs the registration card. Verification of relationship will be required.


Accurate and efficient reference service is provided in person, by telephone, and via e-mail (e-ref), 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 Lawrence Historical Society 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. E-ref requests are answered within 24 hours of the submission of the request. Staff assists users in looking up desired materials, using the computer catalog and in locating these 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 provides 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, 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 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. 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 provides users needing translations with appropriate dictionaries as available in the collection. They will assist users in locating translators by request. 

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.
a. 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.
b. Reserves: Reserves are limited to three per caller.
c. 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.
d. Legal Questions: Telephone reference service for legal questions is limited to reading specific short citations or definitions.
e. Street Address Directory: Street address inquiries are limited to three per caller.
f. Stock Quotes: Stock quotes are limited to three per caller.
g. Periodical Searches: The staff will check three issues of a newspaper or magazine for requested information, as time permits.
h. Product Information: Product rating and recommendations may be given by telephone when a printed source is readily available and brief.
i. School Assignments: Up to three short factual answers per student can be given over the telephone. Long passages cannot be read.

E-Reference: The Lawrence Headquarters Branch can provide brief answers to factual reference questions and suggest sources to meet your information needs, via the Internet. Response time is 24 hours from the time that a request is submitted, excluding weekend or holiday closings. When appropriate, the reference staff will email attachments in response to a query.

The Mercer County Library System views the Internet as another opportunity to serve its patrons, offering patrons, through our website, the most up to date information regarding our Branches, programs and services, our online catalog and patron account review, and a host of electronic reference resources


  • Photocopying: 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. There is a Xerox color copier located at the Lawrence HQ Branch. Color copies are $1.00 per page.
  • Faxing: The Mercer County Library System has fax machines in each of its Branches in order to ensure that patrons at all the Branches have as convenient access as possible to the full complement of reference materials available. The Library permits branch-to-branch faxing and the faxing, by library staff, of reference materials to personal or business fax numbers within the 609 area code. A maximum of three pages will be faxed. It is not always possible to fax materials quickly. Patrons wishing to use a fax machine for their own personal use will be directed to the nearest commercial location.
  • Interlibrary Loan: The Mercer County Library System provides an Interlibrary Loan service for patrons and will borrow materials from libraries outside the system to accommodate the needs of our patrons. In a few instances, there is a fee imposed by the lending library to send a book or article through ILL. The patron is responsible for this fee and may stipulate the maximum he/she is willing to pay. The library's ILL department will always try first to obtain the materials at no cost to the patron or at a low cost. The following regulations apply to the service:
    • The Library will accept three ILL requests per patron visit. Up to three ILL requests will be accepted by phone, fax or email.
    • ILL materials circulate for four (4) weeks and cannot be renewed.
    • The fine for an overdue ILL book is $0.25 per day. A patron with outstanding, overdue ILL material on their account will automatically become delinquent, regardless of whether or not the fines or fees associated with the outstanding materials exceed or total $50.00.
    • The patron is responsible for photocopy charges for articles obtained through ILL.
    • The patron is responsible for the replacement cost charged by the lending library for lost ILL materials.
    • Books borrowed through ILL must be returned to a Mercer County Library System branch. We will return the material to the lending library.
    • Audio-visual materials will not be requested through ILL.
    • Children's materials and paperback materials will not be requested through ILL. 
    • Upon review of the request and at the discretion of the Library, the Library System may decide to purchase the material, rather than ILL a request.
  • Home Borrowers Service: The Home Borrowers Service provides direct delivery service of materials to people who are homebound, by volunteers who select the materials at the library. Anyone who is temporarily or permanently homebound may utilize this service. Patrons may contact the Reference Department at the Lawrence Headquarters Branch for further details.
  • Long Distance Phone Calls: Patrons who are entitled to a complimentary Mercer County Library System card are so because they reside, work, own property or attend a school in one of the member municipalities. Therefore, these patrons are required to provide a local, Mercer County phone number at which staff can contact them. Patrons who have purchased a card in the amount of either $75 or $10 should be reached at their convenience, as they may not necessarily have a local exchange. It is encouraged that staff should first ascertain whether or   not a local number is available. The Library staff does not attempt to contact patrons on cell phone numbers, only residential numbers.


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.


At the request of the faculty or media specialists in schools in participating municipalities, staff may set aside reserve materials to support the 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.


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.


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 upon request.

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 Manual. 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 parental or guardian 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.

The Mercer County Library System periodically accepts donations of books and magazines from the public. Donations become the sole property of the Mercer County Library System. 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 by designated members of the staff, sold by local friends of the library groups or discarded. Materials that are mildewed, wet 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.

IIn 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 will 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.

System Policies Page 2

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