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Using the Library

Books - all you need to know

How to borrow a library book: 

  • The easiest way is to use our self-service machines.  These are accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We have a self-service machine on each site. You will need to make sure you have your library card with you, so you can scan the barcode on the back of the card.  You will also need to know your library PIN (if you can't remember please email us for help).  Please note, due to building works this service is not currently available on the Colchester site.
  • Books can also be issued to you from the library enquiry desk during office hours. 
  • Books which you have on hold can only be picked up from the library enquiry desk during office hours. 
  • You can borrow up to 8 books on your library account. 
  • You will receive an email "receipt" telling you the books you have borrowed and when they are due back (unless you opt out of this service).
  • Please note - your card will only work on the self-service machine of the library that issued it. Unfortunately, you cannot login to the Ipswich machine with a Colchester Library membership card and vice versa. However, you can still return books at either library. Just drop them into the returns box and library staff will make sure they are removed from your account and returned to the other site.


You have many options when returning books.  You can:

  • Return books to the library enquiry desk (either Ipswich or Colchester) during office hours. 

  • Return books via the self service machine at any time and place them in the return boxes in the library (if you are coming after office hours be sure to have your ID badge to gain access to the libraries) Note: Currently not available on Colchester site

  • Place books in the 'Library Book Return' boxes at anytime - for Colchester this is the blue box outside of Villa 8 and for Ipswich this is the red box located along the Education Centre corridor. Library staff check these boxes daily, and any books found there will be returned on the system by staff.

  • If you are returning books borrowed from another library the self-service machine will not recognise them. Don't worry - just put them in the returns box and library staff will make sure they are removed from your account.

  • You can also return books to any other NHS Library within the East of England region and they will post it back to us. 


The library operates an automatic renewal system:

  • This means that provided there is not a reservation on the book/s you have borrowed, or your loan is not from a library outside the East of England region, your loan will automatically renew for another 28 days without you having to do anything.
  • The automatic renewal will happen around two days before your current due date and you will receive an email to notify you that the book/s have been renewed.  
  • If you receive an email saying a book cannot be renewed and you have had it for less than 3 months please email us - it may be the book has been reserved for another user. If a book is reserved then you must return it to the library. 
  • You have 3 automatic renewals on each book* (this is on top of your initial 28 day loan period when the book/s are first issued to you). 
  • If you still require the book after your three automatic renewals, then please email us and we shall see if another renewal is possible. 
  • Books on loan from outside the East of England region do not qualify for automatic renewal.  If you still need your loans after 28 days please email us as we will need to check with the loaning library if renewal is possible. 

Please note: The library has the right to recall books at anytime.  Therefore, you must return a book if you are asked to do so by a member of the library team, even if it is before the due date. 

* Some books may not be eligible for automatic renewal. 

Can I renew books myself?

Yes you can renew books yourself, either through the library self-service machine or by logging into your library account via the library catalogue.  However, because of the automatic renewal system you will only be able to do this three times.  Also if you renew a book yourself this will count as one of your automatic renewals. 

You can place a hold yourself through the library catalogue. When you have found a book you would like to reserve you will need to:

  1. Click on 'Place a Reservation' on the right hand side of the screen. 
  2. You will then need to log into your account, with your library ID and pin. 
  3. Once you are logged in you will have the option to choose which NHS library you would like to pick the book up from. 
  4. You can then set a date you would like to cancel the reservation, it is fine to leave this box blank. 
  5. Then click confirm reservation.  
  • You can check the status of your holds by logging into your account and clicking on the 'Your Summary' option on the left-hand side, and then clicking the reservations tab.  
  • You will get an email to notify you that book is ready for collection.  The time it takes for a book to arrive will depend on weather it is already on loan to another user.  Books are not recalled 

  • You can also email the library the details of a book/s and we can put a hold on it for you.  Similarly if you can't find the book you want on the library catalogue, then please email us the details as we may be able to request it from another NHS Library out of the region.  You can find more information on book requests here. 

Please note that if you already have 8 books issued to your account, while you will still be able to place holds on new books, we do ask that you return books you no longer need when you come and collect your new reservation. 


How to Place Holds - Video 



Got a reading or journal article list you need help with -  

Please visit our request information page for more!

 The library may charge you for lost or significantly damaged books: 

You are responsible for every item issued to your account. If items are damaged or lost you may be charged replacement costs and an admin fee. The exact details will be discussed on a case by case basis with the Library Services Lead.  If you have not returned books on loan from us, and do not respond to our correspondence within a certain amount of time, we shall treat the books as missing and you may be charged a replacement cost and admin fee.

Please note:  you must not let any one else use your account to borrow books. Each member of staff must have their own account if they wish to use our services. You are responsible for every item issued to your account. If they are damaged or lost you may be charged replacement costs and admin fee.