The Lancaster Public Library began serving the lifelong learning needs of the residents of Lancaster City and County on December 4, 1759 when the Lancaster Library Company was formed with 54 members at the home of Benjamin Price at 37 North Queen Street. Each member initially paid three guineas plus seven shillings six pence annually. Robert Fulton and Declaration of Independence signer George Ross were charter members and Benjamin Franklin complimented the Lancaster Library Company for having four more members than his Philadelphia Library Company (founded in 1731).

In 1763 the Library was reincorporated, with 77 members, as the Juliana Library Company of Lancaster in honor of Lady Juliana Penn, daughter-in-law of William Penn, the Library’s patron. During the Revolutionary war the Library served as the Treasury of Pennsylvania and offices of Treasurer David Rittenhouse. For the next hundred years the Library occupied several sites (including the county courthouse) and in 1898 moved into the donated home of A. Herr Smith at 125 North Duke Street.

In 1903 the Library merged with Mechanics Society Library and reorganized into the Lancaster Free Library. In 1933 the Lancaster Free Public Library was incorporated. By 1938, the library had a bookmobile, five branches (Columbia, Elizabethtown, Lititz, Marietta, and New Holland), and 42 deposit stations throughout county. The library added additional branches in Leola, Manheim Township, and Mountville. Eventually, all of the branches became independent libraries except for Leola and Mountville. In 1954 a new Lancaster Free Public Library was built on the site of A. Herr Smith Library on 125 N. Duke Street.

In 1963 the Library System of Lancaster County (LSLC) was formed under auspices of Lancaster Free Public Library. In 1969 the County Commissioners designated the Lancaster Free Public Library as the County Library and the State named it as District Library Center. The name was thus changed to Lancaster County Library (LCL). In 1986 the LCL board split into separate LCL and LSLC boards. In 1997 County Commissioners designated LSLC as their agent to provide public library services to County residents. In 2000 the library staff was split between LCL and LSLC. In 2003 the LSLC staff moved out of the LCL.

In 2006 the Lancaster County Library changed its name to the Lancaster Public Library (LPL). The LPL’s three branches in Lancaster, Leola, and Mountville currently serve as the free public libraries for approximately 207,000 Lancaster County residents in fourteen municipalities: Conestoga Township, East Hempfield Township, East Lampeter Township, East Petersburg Borough, Lancaster City, Lancaster Township, Manor Township, Millersville Borough, Mountville Borough, Pequea Township, Upper Leacock Township, West Earl Township, West Hempfield Township, and West Lampeter Township.


A library card for the Lancaster Public Library will be issued without charge to any resident of Lancaster County who is five years old or more.

A child under the age of 14 years must have the library card application form signed by a parent or legal guardian who agrees to assume responsibility for monitoring the materials borrowed by the child, as well as the child’s fines and the cost of any lost or damaged materials.

Applicants will need to produce proof of address from one of the following sources:

  • A valid driver’s license
  • A current identification card
  • A bill from a utility company of retailer addressed to the person and dated in the last three months
  • A tax bill for a Lancaster County property
  • Working papers issued to a teenager
  • A copy of a current lease or deed for a Lancaster County property
  • Checks with a pre-printed Lancaster County address
  • Valid Lancaster County school ID

Non-residents of Lancaster County should see the librarian to obtain a card.

Institutional Card

An institutional library card is issued to a Lancaster County organization that assumes responsibility for all borrowed materials. The application must be accompanied by a letter on the letterhead of the organization applying for the card, accepting responsibility for all borrowed materials and signed by the director of the organization. Overdue fines will be incurred for any materials not returned by the due date. Special loan periods can be arranged upon request.

Click here for a library card application. Take the completed form to your local library to obtain your library card!

A library card for the Library System of Lancaster County may be used at any public library that is a member of the Library System of Lancaster County.

Borrowing privileges may be suspended for the failure to return overdue books, failure to pay overdue fines, or failure to pay for lost or damaged materials.

Library patrons are responsible for notifying the library about the change of address within 30 days.

Lost or stolen library cards can be replaced for $1.00.

Renewal can be done at a Lancaster County public library circulation desk, by telephone, or online.

Renewal at a Lancaster County public library circulation desk requires the items or the library card on which the items were checked out.

24-Hour Telephone renewal can be done by calling 717-394-1721.

Online renewal is available from through the Online Catalog. Click on My Account on any page of the catalog and input your name, barcode, and PIN. Please note that not all items can be renewed online. Some reasons an item may not be renewed are: another borrower has requested the item; that type of material is not eligible for renewal; you already renewed the item the maximum number of times; or, because of overdue fines on your record. If you are unable to renew your items, please call your local library.

Late fees for Adult and Young Adult materials are 30¢ per day with a maximum fee of $5.10 per item.

Late fees for Children’s materials are 20¢ per day with a maximum fee of $3.00 per item.

$1 per day for all Videos and DVDs with a maximum of $5 per item.

Lost item charges equal the price of the item. It is your responsibility to contact the library to arrange for the payment of late fees. Any questions about an account may be directed to your local library.

First Notice at 2 Weeks

The first overdue notice will be sent to the most recent address listed in the library records for the patron account when the item is 2 weeks overdue. The notice will include a list of overdue materials.

Failure to return the items listed in this notice within seven (7) working days of the date of this notice will result in a suspension of a cardholder’s borrowing privileges in each library in Lancaster County until the account is cleared.

Failure to return these items within 4 weeks after the original due date will result in a charge to the cardholder’s account for the replacement cost of the materials.

Second Notice: Bill for replacement at 4 weeks

The second notice is sent when the item is 4 weeks overdue. This is a bill for the replacement of the books. If the billed items are found, you need only pay the late fees.

Library patrons of the parents of the juvenile library patron are expected to return library materials promptly and to pay any late fees incurred.

If an item is more than 14 days overdue, borrowing privileges are suspended until the materials are returned and the late fees are paid.

Late fees must be paid and overdue materials returned before suspended borrowing privileges are restored.

Pennsylvania State Law States that:

“Records related the circulation of the library materials which contain the names or other personally identifying details regarding the users of the state Library or any local library which is established or maintained under any law of the Commonwealth or the library of a university, college or educational institution chartered by the Commonwealth or the library of any public school or branch reading room, deposit station or agency operated in connection therewith, shall be confidential and shall not be made available to anyone except by a court order in a criminal proceeding.” (PA State Law 24 P.S. Section 4428.)

The Library System of Lancaster County and member libraries will resist the issuance or enforcement of any such process, order, or subpoena until such time as a proper showing of good cause has been made in a court of competent jurisdiction. Upon receipt of such process, order, or subpoena, library officers will consult with their legal counsel to determine if such process, order, or subpoena is in proper form and if there is a showing of good cause for its issuance. If the process, order, or subpoena is not in the proper form or if good cause has not been shown, they will insist that such defects be cured.

This confidentiality policy applies equally to adults and minors. When an adult requests the records of a child, the library will respond only if the child consents to the request.

Telephone requests for information about materials checked out to patron accounts (adult or child) can be responded to if the caller has the barcode number on the library card.