Access and Borrowing Privileges at CUNY

Borrowing Books

Current CUNY students, faculty, and staff may borrow books from any CUNY library, with these exceptions:

  • The CUNY Law School extends access-only privileges (no borrowing) to students and faculty not currently enrolled there.
  • Retired faculty may borrow from any CUNY library (note above exceptions) with appropriate identification
  • Students enrolled in SUNY’s Empire State College are also granted borrowing privileges at all CUNY libraries. They should be issued a CUNY Libraries Access card with a generic barcode which has an expiration date at the end of the semester
  • Each campus library has a certain number of patrons that only have borrowing privileges at that home library. These are typically:
    • local alumni (alumni have access only to their home campus library),
    • visiting scholars,
    • students from other CUNY programs, e.g., CUNY Start, or
    • neighboring high school students.

Check with the circulation desk staff if you have questions about these patrons.

For information on returning books, renewing books, placing holds, paying fines, and other policies, see Circulation Policies.

CUNY Libraries Access Cards and Generic Barcodes

CUNY Libraries Access cards with a generic (2 9999) barcode are to be issued to students who do not have a barcode from their home campus on their ID card and want to check out items from another CUNY library. The generic barcode should be issued with an expiration date of 10 days to allow the patron to return to their home campus library and be issued a permanent barcode. The generic barcode should never be placed on a regular college ID card.

If the patron’s ID card is imprinted with a valid library barcode, staff at any library can enter them into the Aleph patron file.


The New York Public Library, Columbia University, and New York University are piloting a lending program for faculty and graduate students. Cardholders from each institution, including CUNY faculty and graduate students, are invited to apply for borrowing privileges from all three research libraries through June 2012.

For more information, please see MaRLI: Manhattan Research Library Initiative.

See also: Public Access to CUNY Libraries (below)

Public Access to CUNY Libraries

If you are a member of the public desiring access to research information held in the CUNY library system, your best bet is to check first with local public libraries (New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, or Queens Library) to see if the desired information is available there. If the public libraries do not have the title you need, and they see that CUNY does, they may then provide you with a referral to CUNY in the form of a METRO card that cites the unique title of the reference source you need from CUNY. Without this METRO referral or a valid CUNY ID, you do not have access to campus libraries. In no case may non-CUNY researchers remove materials from the libraries.