Skip to main content


Find the answers to frequently asked questions about your library account, using the catalog and more!

Searching the Catalog

In BiblioCommons, click the “Help” link in the upper-right corner of the screen.  Use the menu options to select the topic you need help with.

The Classic Catalog comes with online help you can look at by clicking on the “Search Help” button in the upper right-hand corner. 

The “Broaden Search” button appears in BiblioCommons after performing a search.  In the Classic Catalog the “Show Similar” button appears on the detail page only after you’ve performed a keyword search. When you click on either button, another keyword search is performed to find subjects close to your original search. 

For example, if you did a keyword search in the Classic Catalog on Columbus, and on the results page, you clicked the “Where is it?” link for the first item, a book called Christopher Columbus: To the New World, you would get a detail page that has a “Show Similar” button at the top. If you click on that button, it will do a search for subjects related to Columbus. The results list will show books about other explorers, such as Captain John Smith or Hernando de Soto. If you click on the “Where is it?” link for one of those items and scroll down, you’ll see the subjects that the “Show Similar” button searched for highlighted in red.

When you check either of these boxes in BiblioCommons or the Classic Catalog and perform a search, the catalog will only display items that are actually in a library and on the shelf or waiting to be shelved. 

In BiblioCommons you can limit the search to one, multiple or all library branches.  In the Classic Catalog you must also limit to a specific location. Please note that doing both at the same time may limit the results that you will see.

In the Classic Catalog, Preferred Searches (or New Item Alerts) can send you an email alert when a new item is added to our catalog that meets your interests. You can set up alerts for new items by format, location, favorite authors, titles, subjects, etc. To set up a Preferred Search:

  • Log in to your library account.
  • Run a search for the type of item you want to be notified about (e.g.: an author search for “Rice, Anne”). 
  • At the top of the search results page, click on the “Save search to get new item alerts” button.
  • Go back into your library account and click on the button for “Preferred Searches.” 
  • Check the box in the “Mark for Email” column and click “Update List.”
  • You will now receive email notification every time one of our libraries adds an item matching your search criteria. There is a limit of 50 New Item Alerts.

In BiblioCommons, the New Item Alerts function is not available.

Yes, you can. From any title list page, you can sort by Relevance, Date or Title.  Some results pages also give you additional sorting options.

When you click on Catalog or Search Catalog, you will see a drop-down menu to choose to search by Keyword (default), Title, Author, or Subject. Select one and type your search term(s) into the second box. Optionally, you can use the third box to limit your search to a specific library or Adult, Teen, or Children’s materials. You can also check the box below the Search button to limit your search to in-stock items only. 

You can use Advanced Search if you want to use multiple search terms, such as title and author, or if you want to limit your search to a specific library, location, type of material, language, publisher, or year.

The online catalogs (BiblioCommons, Classic and OneSearch interfaces) provide access to all the books, audio books, movies, music, and other items owned by all 34 public and community college libraries throughout the Peninsula Library System in San Mateo County. You can use the online catalog to check your library account for materials you have checked out, placed holds on, or pay any fees you may owe.

Catalog Features

In BiblioCommons, there are summaries and reviews (if any) within the item record details. You can find “Opinions” towards the bottom of the page from the Critics (official reviews) and from the Community (other library users).

In the Classic Catalog, perform your search and go to the detail page for the item you are interested in. Look for the “Reviews & More” button near the bottom of the page. Clicking this provides any available reviews, summaries, and additional content information.

In BiblioCommons, you can add items to a “For Later”, “In Progress” or “Completed” shelf.  This allows you to keep track of items you may, are currently or finished reading, listening to, or watching.

In the Classic Catalog, you can save a list from your search results by clicking “Add to Book Bag” next to the items you want to add to your list. Once you have added items to your Book Bag, you can click the “View Book Bag” button (above the search options) to see your list. From there, you may save or send your list, or place holds on the items.

When viewing your Book Bag, click “Save Book Bag” to select formatting and sending options. If you choose to email your list, enter an email address into the “Mail To:” box, change the subject if you wish, and click the “Submit” button.

In BiblioCommons, you can enable or disable your borrowing history from the Account Preferences tab in My Settings. 

In the Classic Catalog, the Reading History will begin recording the titles you check out from the library once you turn it on. The Reading History will not show titles that were checked out prior to turning on the Reading History. To turn on Reading History:

  • Log in to your account.
  • Click on the “Reading History” link on the right side of the screen.
  • Click on the blue “Opt In” link to the left.

Search for the item you want by typing a title, keyword, or author name in the search box and click on “Search”. This will produce a “Search Results” page. (For example, if you search for an author, you will first get a list of authors to choose from. When you click on an author’s name, you will get the “Search Results” page.) From the “Search Results” page, simply click on a title or cover art (if shown) and you will see the detail page for that item, including holdings. If there are more than 10 copies, click on the button “View additional copies or search for specific copy/volume” and all copies will be displayed.

eBooks and eAudiobooks

All nine public library jurisdictions in the Peninsula Library System consortium share several eBook resources including the popular Peninsula Digital Library eBook collection. These titles are available to anyone who has a card from any library in the Peninsula Library System. When using the online catalog, any eBook title that is available to all will say, “Connect to this resource online.”

In addition to this shared collection, there are eBooks in the library catalog that are only available to cardholders from the library that purchased the eBook. Publishers and Digital Rights Management prevent the loan of these titles outside the specific library’s boundaries. When using the online catalog these titles will say, for example, “San Mateo County Library Cardholders (card begins with 29041) Click Here to download this eBook.” See the information at to learn more about e-Resources.

Yes. Due to licensing agreements, there are limited quantities of eBook or audio copies that can be used at any one time. If you place a hold in Overdrive, you will be notified via email when it is available. You can choose to automatically check out the item once your hold is available.

eBooks and audio books are automatically returned when their loan periods end.  In Overdrive you can return loans early.

The lending period is typically 1-3 weeks, depending on your account settings in Overdrive, which you control.

eBooks come up in your catalog search results just like all other library materials. If you want to search specifically for eBooks, use the Advanced Search features or filters after you’ve completed a search. Enter your search terms in the top box and in the Material Type menu, select “E-Books”. Specify any other limits you’d like to place on your search and click “Submit”.

In general, yes. They have the same content, illustrations, and photos. However, the page numbers might not match due to screen size and text size differences.

Yes, they’re free to Peninsula Library System card holders. To apply for a card online fill out the form at

Audio eBooks (also known as MP3 audio books, or simply audio books) are recordings of books read aloud. You can listen to them on any device that can play MP3 files.

eBooks are electronic versions of printed books that can be read on a computer, tablet, phone or other electronic device with the appropriate software and capabilities.

My Library and My Account

Your Personal Identification Number (PIN) helps to protect your library account from being used by others. The PIN consists of four digits. The default PIN may be the last four digits of the telephone number you provided when you applied for a library card. When you try to login and cannot access your library account, your address and/or telephone number may be out of date in our records. Please bring photo identification and proof of your current home address in to one of our libraries to have this information updated for you.

If you wish to update or change your PIN via BiblioCommons, go to “My Settings” and find the PIN setting under Account Information.

If you wish to update or change your PIN via the Classic Catalog, you can!

  • Go to
  • Click on the “My Library Account” link in the yellow bar.
  • Log in using your library account number and your current PIN.
  • Click on “Modify PIN” located on the right side of the screen.
  • You will be asked to enter your old PIN followed by the new 4-digit PIN you want to use.

After entering the new PIN and verifying it, click on “Submit”.

In BiblioCommons, click on the “Log In” link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. You will be asked for your 14-digit library card number or username and PIN. If you have not set up a username for the account, you will be prompted to do so. When you are finished checking your account, remember to log out so that others will not be able to access it.

In the Classic Catalog at, click the “My Library Account” link in the yellow bar toward the top of the screen. You will be asked for your 14-digit library card number and PIN. When you are finished checking your account, remember to log out so that others will not be able to access it.

In OneSearch, login using the “Sign in” link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.  Select the appropriate login for Community Members or SMCCD Students, Faculty and Staff.  

  • Community members, including members of the Peninsula Library System, who have OneSearch accounts login with their OneSearch account credentials and password, which may be set to include any of the following, according to your preferences when you create your account: OneSearch account number (everyone will be assigned one of these by default), PLS Library card number, or other user name or ID. Please note that the password is unique to your OneSearch account and is not necessarily the same as your PLS account.
  • Current students, faculty, and staff of one of the colleges or the college district login using their single sign on college credentials used for all OneLogin accounts, including Canvas, Zoom, etc.
If your library card begins with:JurisdictionBranches
29041San Mateo County LibraryAtherton
East Palo Alto
Foster City
Half Moon Bay
Portola Valley
San Carlos
29042Burlingame LibraryBurlingame
29043Daly City LibrarySerramonte
John Daly
29044Menlo Park LibraryMenlo Park
Belle Haven
29045Redwood City LibraryRedwood City
Fair Oaks
Redwood Shores
29046San Bruno LibrarySan Bruno
29047San Mateo City LibrarySan Mateo City
29048South San Francisco LibrarySouth San Francisco Main
Grand Avenue


Some libraries are members on Link+, a consortium of libraries that gives you access to materials from all over the state of California and into Nevada.  Some libraries also provide other inter-library loan services. Contact your local library, or you can email your question to a reference librarian and receive your answer electronically. Fill out the form at

To view your holds, log into “My Library Account” using your 14-digit library card number and PIN and click the “Requests (holds)” link.

  • To suspend or freeze a hold:
    • Put a checkmark in the box in the Freeze column at the far right for each item you want to freeze.
    • When you’re finished selecting items, click on the “Update list” button on the left just above or below your list of holds. You’ll see that icicles appear on your hold so you can see clearly that it’s frozen.
    • To unfreeze your items, remove the checkmark from the Freeze checkboxes and click on the “Update Selected” button. Your holds will be unfrozen and active.
    • Note: This may only work for those titles with all copies checked out and a long hold list.
  • To cancel a hold:
    • If you no longer wish to have a specific item on hold, you can cancel the request.
  • To change the pickup location:
    • If you would like to change the pickup location for an item, you can do so if the hold has not yet been filled.

To view your holds, log into your account and go to On Hold.

  • To suspend or freeze/pause a hold:
    • When viewing your holds, you can choose the Pause option to delay the hold being filled.
    • When ready to resume your hold, choose the Resume option. Holds can only be paused if all holdable copies are currently unavailable.
  • To cancel a hold:
    • If you no longer wish to have a specific item on hold, you can cancel the request.
  • To change the pickup location:
    • If you would like to change the pickup location for an item, you can do so if the hold has not yet been filled.

If you have further questions or need assistance, contact your local library.

You can freeze or pause your holds so they don’t become available while you’re away. When you come back you can unfreeze your holds and still have your same place in the holds queue.

If you need something right away, and the catalog says it is in a “Check Shelf” status, DON’T PLACE A HOLD! The quickest option is to call the library where the item is available (“Check Shelf” status) and ask for a “courtesy hold.” Staff will place the item on their holdshelf in time for your arrival. Some items in the collection may not be available as a courtesy hold, depending on local library policies.

While we try to get your library materials to you as quickly as possible, holds that are currently in a “Check Shelf” status may take several days to arrive. Deliveries take place Mondays through Saturdays at most libraries (excluding holidays), and we will notify you (via email, text, phone or postal mail, depending on your account settings) as soon as your items are ready to pick up. Items currently checked out may take longer to fill holds since current borrowers will need to return the items first.

When you encounter a record in the catalog that has items for different volumes, parts, or years, you can call your local library and ask library staff to place a “copy-specific” hold for you to ensure that you receive the item that you want.

If you would like to change the pickup location for an item, you can do so if the hold has not yet been filled. If the hold has already been filled, call or visit your local library (; staff will assist you with making this change.

The library will contact you when your hold is ready to be picked up. The best ways for us to get in touch with you are email and text – and using both is even better! If you are unsure of your notification method, contact your local library ( For text notifications, sign up using the instructions at


Renewing your card is easy. You can renew your PLS library card at any public library in San Mateo County.  You can renew your community college library card at any college library. Simply bring photo identification and proof of your current home address and library staff will renew your card in just a few minutes. Proof of your current home address may be your ID, a current utility bill (PG&E, phone, water, etc.), a piece of mail addressed to you (“Resident” or similar generic forms of address are generally not accepted), or similar documentation that shows your name and current address. If you have any questions, please contact your local library (

The Peninsula Library System will automatically renew eligible items two days before the due date. The new due dates will be based on the original due dates. You will receive notification two days in advance of the due date alerting you which items have been renewed and which items cannot be renewed. Items with holds/reserves or that have reached the maximum renewal limit will not renew. Your library account must be current and have a balance of fifteen dollars ($15) or less for automatic renewals to work.

Other ways to renew:

BiblioCommons – renew through the My Borrowing menu item. From the “Checked Out” tab, select the items you wish to renew and click “Renew”. A new due date will appear indicating a successful renewal.

Classic Catalog – renew through either the “Renew Items” link or the “My Library Account” link. Login to the catalog with your library card number and PIN to access your account. If the center of the screen does not show the “# of Items Checked Out” and the title list, locate the link to “# of Items Checked Out” on the right side of the screen. The list of items you currently have checked out (“Items Currently Checked Out”) displays to the bottom of the screen. You may choose to renew everything checked out by clicking “Renew All” or you can choose which items to renew by checking the check box to the left of each item you want to renew. Click the “Renew Marked” button to renew only those items you selected. 

Text – renew through SMS text message via Shoutbomb.  Go to for instruction on how to register for text message alerts and renew your items.

Telephone – renew through telephone prompts can be done by calling (650) 638-0399. 

App – renew through mobile app from either the Apple Store or Google Play. Search for “Peninsula Library System” and choose your home library app. 

If you have any questions, please contact your local library.


We appreciate you using email notification for holds and overdue materials. Currently, libraries do not have the functionality to respond to circulation questions by email. The best way to contact your library if you have questions is to call them directly and ask to speak with a circulation staff member. You can find the list of phone numbers on the My Library page:

No. When you fill out the form the first time, your email address is added to your library record. All future notices will be sent to you via email. You only need to fill out this form once.

The most likely reasons for not receiving an email notification from us is that our emails may have been routed to your spam or junk email folder, or the email address in your account is incorrect. 

Log into your account and check your email address.  Look carefully for spelling and/or punctuation errors to fix.

Check your spam or junk folders. You can mark our emails as “not spam”, or similar terminology, so that our email goes straight into your inbox rather than your junk or spam folder. Check with your email provider on how to whitelist a sender or prevent emails from going to the spam/junk folder. You may also consider getting into the habit of checking your spam/junk folders periodically.

Go to your library account in the online catalog and sign in using your barcode and PIN. 

In BiblioCommons, click on the “Settings” gear wheel icon next to “My Account”. Update your email address under “Account Information.”

In the Classic Catalog, click on the “Modify Personal Info” button to see your email address. Change your address and click on “Submit.” Your address will be changed automatically.

You will continue to receive email notifications to the email address we have in your account.  If your email address changes, we recommend setting up forwarding email from your old email address to your new email address until you update your library account with your new email address.

Once you register for email notifications, your library will notify you by email two days before your item is due to be returned. This system will work for items that have one-week, two-week, and three-week loan periods. Note, however, that items with one-hour, one-day or two-day loan periods will not be part of this service!

In BiblioCommons, click on the “Settings” gear wheel icon next to “My Account”. Update your email address and “Digital Notification Email” under “Account Information.”

To register for notices by email in the Classic Catalog, or to change/update your email address:

  • Log into “My Library Account” in the Classic Catalog.
  • Click on the “Modify Personal Information” link.
  • If the box marked “Email” is empty, simply fill it in with your email address and click on the “Submit” button.
  • You will now get your notices by email.

If you have further questions or need assistance, contact your local library.

Fines and Fees

Before paying online, review your charge(s) carefully. Once paid, most charges are non-refundable. If you have any questions, please contact your local library before paying any fees.

Many fees are non-refundable.  Since policies vary at PLS libraries, contact your local library before paying any fees. They can explain the fines and fees that appear on your account. If you have a question about a payment do the following:

  • Check to see if the fee/fine still shows in your account. If it still shows there, your payment didn’t go through.
  • Check in your credit card statement to see if the payment appears.
  • Check your confirmation email.

Please have a copy of your statement and confirmation email when you contact your local library. If you find a charge on your credit card that needs to be disputed, your credit card company will help you with the proper procedure.

Yes, this is correct. Peninsula Library System is working with a secure payment vendor to ensure the security of your online payments. This is where the payment will be processed.

There are many reasons why you might see this message. Please contact your local library for assistance. Your payment cannot be processed as long as this error message is displayed, and no fines or fees will be cleared from your record.

Visa, MasterCard and Discover credit cards are the only forms of payment we can accept online at this time.

Library payments will show up as – Library Payment. “Your Local Library” should be your home library (San Mateo Public, Brisbane, Redwood City, etc.).

Fines and fees visible in your “My Library Account” may be paid online. Any other charges, including printing fees, may be paid at your local library.

No. Any amount can be paid online. However, the total amount of fines on your account needs to be less than $15.00 in order be able to renew checked out items and have full use of your library account.

In BiblioCommons, go to the Fees tab and select the fees to pay. Once you click Pay Selected, you will be directed to a Peninsula Library System Secure Payment Form to enter your credit card information.

In the Classic Catalog:

  • Click “Pay Fees” in the yellow menu bar.
  • Log in to your account using your library barcode number and your PIN.
  • In the white box on the left, click on the “unpaid fines and bills” link.
  • Click on the “Pay Online” button.
  • You will be directed to a Peninsula Library System Secure Payment Form to enter your credit card information.

Contact Us

You may contact us in person or online.  

  1. Contact any library staff member at any library. They will be glad to take your feedback. You can find the library phone numbers at
  2. From the catalog or the Peninsula Library System website,, click on “Contact Us” at the bottom of the page. There are a variety of feedback forms. We read all of them and respond to questions..