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The Teacher Card

Brooklyn Public Library

Innovation Summary

Designed to increase teachers’ use of the library’s collections, Brooklyn Public Library’s Teacher Card allows educators to borrow children’s materials and young adult and adult paperback books without paying fees for late returns or renewals. Educators may also request a prepaid UPS label from the library to conveniently return items.

Problem Statement

Libraries must balance their roles as stewards of taxpayer-purchased collections and the need to preserve access to materials – especially to the young. Most adults can share a story about a particular time they stopped using the library as students because of overdue fines. Students are the most important demographic that Brooklyn Public Library serves, and the library works extensively with schools all across Brooklyn. Yet due to late fees and other fines, many children and teens were unable to check out library materials during class visits. In addition, teachers were often reluctant to borrow materials for their students because they were afraid of accruing late fees and fines. The library needed to find a way to make its materials more readily available to students and encourage teachers to use its resources in their classrooms.


In January 2011, Brooklyn Public Library launched the Teacher Card. The new library card is designed to accommodate the needs of educators. It allows teachers from public and independent schools, special education programs, and homeschooling parents and guardians to borrow juvenile materials without late fines. In July 2011, the Library extended the Teacher Card privileges to include teachers from licensed childcare centers, and expanded the collections that could be checked out to include young adult and adult paperback books. Teachers may apply for the card online or in person at one of the library’s sixty locations. Educators must present acceptable identification to obtain the card, such as: a current school-issued or program-issued photo ID; a current letter on the school’s or program’s letterhead confirming employment and a NYS photo ID; or during a class visit, a valid NYS photo ID (no letter necessary); or for parents or guardians homeschooling their children, a current copy of the child’s Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP). To further facilitate the use of the library’s materials, upon request, the library will supply a prepaid UPS label so that teachers can easily return items.


Educators have shown great interest in the new library card. To date, Brooklyn Public Library has issued 1,264 Teacher Cards. These cards have been used to check out more than 23,000 items. Educators have also submitted 5,143 hold requests, of which 3,289 have been filled. The library has received very positive feedback for the cards. One teacher told the library that she uses it to borrow items for large class assignments. Others have mentioned that the card is a great solution for helping children who are visiting the library but do not have library cards. The Teacher Card has made it possible for Brooklyn Public Library to successfully expand the reach of its collection to serve a greater number of students and educators.