Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

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Reserving books

Web renewals

Searching the catalogue


Reserving books

Q - Can I reserve a book online?

A – Yes, you can place up to 10 reservations online, so long as the item is available from Devon Libraries stock. You will need your borrower number, your PIN, and an email address.

If you don’t know your PIN, you can either ask for it at your library, where you will be asked to show your library ticket, or you can phone our Customer Service Centre (open 8am - 8pm weekdays and 9am - 1pm Saturdays) on 0345 155 1001, but for your own protection they will have to ask you some questions about your borrower record before they can release the PIN. Not a member - why not register online now?

Go to Library Catalogue and find the item you want to reserve, then click on Reserve and follow the prompts. When the item arrives at the library from which you have chosen to collect it, you will be notified by email. You will be asked to pay any charges on collection.

If you are a mobile library member, you can place reservations online, but not until you have registered when you visit the mobile library to join the scheme and your registration has been processed.

First you will need to tell the mobile librarian that you want to place reservations online. You will then be asked for your name, library card number and preferred PIN. This will be used to modify your borrower record and add details of your stop number, which has to be done at the base library.

Next time you visit the mobile library, you will be given a flyer telling you how to reserve items for collection from the mobile library and how the system will work. Once you have this, you will be able to start reserving online.

Q - I reserved a book, but I can't see it on my personal reservations record. Why not?

A – Your record only shows reservations placed for items which are in Devon Libraries stock.

If you contact the library where you placed your reservation, the staff should be able to tell you exactly what the current position is. If you don't know the phone number, please see Your Local Library.

Q – How do I reserve a book that isn’t listed in your catalogue?

A – You can place a reservation for it at Your local library. You can do this in person or by phone, but if you phone and your call trips to our Customer Service Centre (as it will if the line is engaged or the staff cannot answer your call quickly), please ask to be transferred back to the library, as the Centre staff can only reserve books that are on our catalogue.

Your request will logged at the library and sent to our Request Team, who will either order a copy, or if they decide it isn’t appropriate for our stock or it's out of print, may try to obtain one from elsewhere through the Interlibrary Loans scheme if you have indicated that you would like us to do so. It will cost you more if we borrow it from elsewhere, so we wouldn’t attempt this without your agreement. It makes sense to decide this in advance, as otherwise we risk wasting time when we could be getting on with applying for the book.

Q – I no longer want the item I've reserved online, but I can't see how to cancel it.

A – That's because you can't! The moment you place the reservation, the automated system's wheels are set in motion. It checks to see if there are any copies on the shelf and if so, generates a message to a holding library to see if they can find it, or if all the copies are on loan, it sets a "trap" for the first one that is returned. Library staff can track the progress of a specific reservation and can use an override to cancel it up to the point where it arrives at the pick-up library, but the system can’t do this itself.

Please contact Your local library if you want to cancel a reservation.

Q - What do reservations cost?

A – It depends on the type of reservation. Reservations placed online cost less while it costs more if we have to obtain a book from outside Devon, and some reservations are free. For details, see reservations charges.

Web renewals

Q - Can I renew my books online, and if so, how?

A – Yes, you can. You'll need your borrower number and your PIN.

If you don’t know your PIN, you can either ask for it at your library, where you will be asked to show your library ticket, or you can phone our Customer Service Centre (open 8am - 8pm weekdays and 9am - 1pm Saturdays) on 0845 155 1001, but for your own protection they will have to ask you some questions about your borrower record before they can release the PIN. If you need to renew your books in the meantime, you can phone our Customer Service Centre on 0845 155 1001.

To renew books go to the Library Catalogue and select Renew, then put in your borrower number and PIN and follow the prompts.

You can look at your own borrower record to see what items you have on loan and when they are due back, what reservations you have for Devon Libraries’ stock, what books you have borrowed from the library in the past and any charges you owe, and renew books and reserve items online.  

Q - Please can you spell out exactly how to do online renewals? I know there are prompts but I'd find it reassuring to have something to refer to.
A -

  1. Go to our homepage and select Renew Your Loans (below "Do it online" to the left of the screen)
  2. Put in your full borrower number with no spaces, and using the zero, not the letter O, for example C0000000123456.
  3. Enter your PIN, and then click on the Login button.
  4. When asked, enter your PIN again.
  5. This will take you into your own borrower record, from which you can select various options. Click on Loans, and it will bring up a list of item currently on loan to you.
  6. To renew one book, click on the Renew button next to the one you want. To renew all your books at once select Renew All, which you will find at the bottom of the screen.
    • If your books were successfully renewed, it will tell you so, and give you the new dates for return.
    • If anything could not be renewed (for example, because it is reserved by someone else, or it has been renewed the maximum number of times, or it is a non-renewable item like a DVD), it will tell you that it cannot be renewed and explain the reason why. If it is a book, please return it as soon as you can, or if you cannot do so before the due date, phone your local library or our Customer Service Centre on 0845 155 1001 and ask for a short extension to allow you time return it. If it is a media item like a DVD or CD, you can keep it for longer so long as it isn't reserved, but remember that the longer you keep it, the more you pay!

Q - I've tried to renew my books online, but it won't accept my details. Why not?

A – The likeliest reasons are:

  1. You might not have put your borrower number correctly. You need to put in your full number with no spaces, and using the zero, not the letter O, eg C0000000123456 (count carefully - there should be 14 digits!).
  2. Perhaps you aren’t using the right PIN. Sometimes when members of a family collect their PINs at the same time, they can get the numbers confused, or the number might not have been written down very clearly for you.
  3. Your computer may be remembering a previous borrower number or PIN that you have used. You can check this for yourself by looking at your borrower record on a different computer (perhaps a friend's or a library one) - if it works, then you probably need to clear your computer's cache. How to do this depends on which browser you use, but there are some helpful explanations and guidelines at

Q - Why do we have to enter all those zeros in the ticket number? Couldn't that bit of the number be completed in advance for us?

A - They're a nuisance, aren't they, and it sounds such an obvious solution! But unfortunately, it isn't quite as simple as that, as only the more recent tickets have the zeros at the beginning, while earlier ones have them at the end. So there's no way round this - sorry!

Q - Can I use my PIN with my children's tickets?

A - No, but if you are the guarantor for your children, you can renew their loans via your own borrower record online. Their loans will appear as a link at the bottom of the screen: "View (child's name)'s loans". If you haven't been set up as a contact, you can ask the staff in your library to do this for you.

If you want to be able to access your children's details separately, the library staff can also tell you their PINs next time you visit the library. If you wish, you can change them to the same number as yours by accessing their borrower records on the web and selecting "PIN change" from Your Details screen. You'll then be able to access each child's record individually, using the relevant PIN.

Q - Why do I need a PIN? It would be much easier if I could just use my borrower number.

A - This is for your own protection - without the PIN, if you lost your card, someone else could have access to your borrower details. This is the same principle as bank cards, where you need a PIN to use "hole-in-the-wall" machines.

The PIN can't exceed 4 digits, so inevitably, there will be more than one individual with the same PIN. This doesn’t matter, though (just as it doesn't with bank cards, where the same applies), because the borrower number is unique, and people do not know one another's PINs.

Q - Why can't I get my PIN online?

A - Because if the issuing of a PIN were automatic (encrypted or not), anyone who had access to someone else's ticket number would be able to get their PIN, and would then have access to that person's records.

Q - When can I renew my books online, and what's the deadline to avoid fines?

A - You should be able to renew them at any time (including weekends), and midnight on the day when they are due for return is the deadline to avoid incurring fines! The only time when you can't renew books online is while the system is doing its backup, but as this is about 3.00am – 5.00am, it’s unlikely to affect you!

But it isn’t a good idea to leave it until the last minute, as you might find that some books can’t be renewed - for example, because you've already had the maximum number of renewals, or because someone else has reserved the book.

Very occasionally, essential work has to be carried out on the Devon County Council network, resulting in the website being unavailable - when this happens, we will put a warning message on our website in advance. It usually only lasts for a couple of hours or so, so it's worth trying again later.

Q – I couldn't renew a book because someone else had reserved it. I didn’t know that in advance, so it isn’t my fault.

A - We do realise that when a renewal is refused because of a reservation, you risk incurring overdue charges through no fault of your own. Library staff will allow some extra time to return the book in these circumstances, but the automated process can’t do that. We agree that it would be helpful if it could be set to allow a short renewal, and we have asked our system suppliers to provide this facility, but unfortunately it isn't technically possible yet.

It’s often worth trying to renew again later in the hope that another copy of the book might have satisfied the reservation, but of course that won’t be much help if you have left your renewals until the last minute!

In these circumstances, the best thing to do is to phone our Customer Service Centre (0845 155 1001) between 8am – 8pm on weekdays and 9am – 1pm on Saturdays. Like library staff, they will give you up to a week’s renewal and cancel any relevant fines. If you can’t phone before 8pm when the Customer Service Centre closes, please do so the next day and explain what happened. We certainly wouldn’t expect you to return the book instantly or pay fines because you were unable to renew it.

Q – Why can’t I renew DVDs / CDs / Audiosbooks / MP3s / Playaways?

A - They can’t be renewed because they are hired. You pay for one week's hire up front when you take the item out. If you return it within the week, there's no further charge. But if you keep it longer, the appropriate charge will be added to your account, and you will be asked to pay the balance owing when you return it.

We send out reminders because most people welcome them, but it’s only if it is kept more than an additional 4 weeks that we start to get concerned. It’s your choice and perfectly reasonable for you to keep it for longer than a week, and we have no problem at all with that.

Searching the catalogue

Q – I haven't used your catalogue before - can you give me some basic guidelines to get me started?

A – The Library Catalogue offers various ways of searching, but the simplest are Author, Title, and Keyword.

  • If you know the title of the book (or DVD, or CD or whatever) that you are looking for, click on “Title”, then type the title into the box and click on Search. You must put it in the correctly. For example, if you were looking for a book called "The great Boer War" the catalogue would never find it if you put in "The Boer War”.
  • If you know the author, click on “Author”, then type the author’s name into the box, putting the surname first and then the forename or initial(s), for example, Porter M or Porter Michael.
  • If you only have a vague idea of the author and / or title, try using the “keyword” search – click on the link and then read the guidelines below the box before typing your keywords and clicking on search. This will probably find lots of items that you don’t want, as well as (hopefully) the one you do!

Q – The catalogue says a copy is located somewhere that isn't on your list of libraries. Where is it?

A – Some items are in special collections or may be in a temporary holding location.

Q - What does it mean when the catalogue record for a book says "no copies"?

A - This means we haven't got any copies in stock, but the catalogue record for that item hasn’t been deleted yet. It happens when all the copies of something we used to stock have been withdrawn, or when it's been decided not to purchase a book which was temporarily added to the catalogue. We run housekeeping routines to delete such entries, but in between the housekeeping, titles do accumulate.

You can still put in a reservation at your local library for a "no copies" book, so long as it doesn’t turn out to be one that was actually never published!

Q - Why can’t I search for items held in my own library without having to look at the whole county's stock?

A - If we were able to introduce this feature, it would seriously affect response times - the search would take far longer as each individual item would have to be looked at to see if it was at the library in question. With the current search facility on the web, it's only the most popular titles that produce a long list of locations; most are no more than one screenful, so you can quite quickly skim down the list to see if any are in a particular library. This is faster than the delays that would be entailed by an automated individual library search.

However the new version of the web catalogue that is currently being developed by our system suppliers will allow you to add a branch criterion to your search. You still won’t be able to search for all the titles in a given library, but by applying that criterion, you will be able to see if a given title is at a given library without having to look through a list of where all the different copies are located.

Why can’t I find a list of all your audiobooks / DVDs / CDs / MP3s / Playaways?

I’m afraid the catalogue is only a finding tool, so it can’t produce lists and you can't browse for “All DVDs” or “All CDs” etc, any more than you can search for "All books". We know that people would like to be able to view the catalogue in different ways, and it may be that we can achieve something in future, possibly in collaboration with other library services, but for now, you can only search for a given title or author within a given format. In case this is of interest, here's how to do it:

  1. Go the Library Catalogue
  2. Click on Advanced search
  3. Choose how you want to search (for example, author or title or keyword) and put in your search term (for example, Austen, Jane or Pride and Prejudice)
  4. Select the category of stock you want from the drop-down list (for example, DVD or CD)
  5. Click on Search

Now it'll only list copies that are in your chosen format, so books will be excluded.

Q - I can’t see where copies of the title I want are located in Devon - why not?

A - The web catalogue does say where there are copies, but not on the first screen.  Having selected the title that interests you, you need to click on “More details” and scroll down to “Copy availability” to find out where the copies are.  

A word of warning: “Check shelves” should mean the library in question has a copy available, but if you’re planning to visit, it’s always worth phoning first and asking staff to put it back for you, as it could have gone missing, or someone else could borrow it before you get there.

Q - What is "Galaxy" and how does it work?

A - Galaxy 2000 is the system Devon Libraries uses to hold and control all its data relating to library stock, borrower records, issue/discharge transactions, catalogue records, reservations and the like. It isn't directly available to members of the public, but if you use one of our Viewpoint terminals or the Library Catalogue , you are linked to the relevant elements of the Galaxy 2000 system.

Basically, the database consists of various linked elements, which look at one another as and when necessary. The main parts are

  • Borrower details - information about each individual borrower
  • Issue/discharge transactions - a record of what items are on loan to whom, when they are due for return, any charges owing etc - this is linked to the individual borrower records
  • Catalogue records, controlled by a title number - there are separate details for every edition of every item in stock
  • Item records, controlled by an item number - details of individual copies of the items listed in the catalogue record, including where they are located at a given point in time and if they are on loan, to whom
  • Reservations - details of which items are reserved for which borrowers
  • Acquisitions - records of books which are on order

When a book is issued to a borrower, the system creates a link between the borrower record and item record. When the book is discharged, it cuts the link. Similarly, when a book is reserved for someone, it links the borrower record to the catalogue record, and looks for a copy on the shelf, or failing that, the first copy to be returned, and then directs it to the requesting borrower. And all item records are permanently linked to the relevant catalogue records.

Of course, there are lots of further checks the system has to make when transactions take place. For example, when you try to borrow a book, it has to check whether that book is one that can be borrowed, and if so whether you are entitled to borrow it (you can’t, for instance, if you owe us a lot of money!). When you renew a book, as well as looking at your borrower record, the system has to ask itself: is it something like a DVD or a CD which can't be renewed, has it been renewed the maximum number of times, has it been reserved for someone else, is it overdue? It also has to calculate any charges owing.

Q - When a book is on loan, why doesn’t the catalogue show when it's due back?

A - The main reason is that the date when a book is due for return is no indication as to when it will actually be returned. It might still have a long loan period left, and nevertheless be returned just after you checked, or it might appear to be at the limit but then be renewed several times, or go seriously overdue. The date of return also doesn't indicate whether the book will be immediately available for loan on return (it won't, for example, if there's a waiting list for it, or if it's on loan to another library). So in fact, knowing whether it is currently on loan or on the shelf is really just helpful as a due date.

Even if it were considered desirable, including such information would place a further load on the system and would risk degrading the response times unacceptably. Bear in mind that the data is constantly changing, with thousands of issues, discharges and renewals every day.


Q - How do I change my PIN?

A - Go to the Library Catalogue, and select My Account. Enter your borrower number and current PIN to access your borrower record, then select:
PIN **** Change, and follow the prompts.

Q - Can I join the library online?

A - You can register for membership online which will enable you to place reservations for items in the catalogue, but please visit the library to complete your enrolment; then you can start borrowing straight away. You will just need to tell your local library staff your name, address and date of birth.

Q - Can I use my debit or credit card to pay charges I owe online?

A - No, I'm afraid this isn't possible at present, though it's one of a range of future developments which we are considering.

Q - I'd like you to provide a link to my website from your site - would you be willing to do so?

A - If you're representing a local club or society, please check the Devon Community Information Directory to see whether we already have your organisation's details. If not, please use the site's Contact Us link to ask to be listed.

We don't provide lists of links to external websites on the Library Service's web pages but we do contribute to cyberLibrary. This is a site maintained by a partnership of public library authorities in the South West which provides links to recommended websites on a wide range of topics. Please go to the cyberLibrary to find out how to make a request to be listed.

Q - Your catalogue says you have a book that I want to buy. It's out of print so I can’t get it elsewhere. Will you sell me yours?

A - It's part of our role to retain out-of-print titles so that they can be made available for people who want to read them, so we don’t sell them.

You might like to try one of the many out-of-print booksearch services available on the web. Some of these are free, others may charge either to perform a search or if they succeed in finding you the book you require. Some starting points are:

Alternatively, your nearest Central Reference Library might stock "Sheppard's book dealers in the British Isles", which contains a comprehensive listing of secondhand book dealers in the UK. You could use this to identify some suitable booksellers to try.

A good dealer in regional books is Ambra Books at Devon booksellers, including good local title stockists such as Honiton Old Bookshop and Dartmoor Bookshop are listed at

Q - What happens if my card is lost or stolen?

A - If your library card is lost or stolen please report this to your local library.Your library can issue you with a replacement but there will be a small charge for this.