Questions and Answers about Library Computers

What does the computer reservation system do?
The system allows users to reserve time on computers in any of the San Francisco Public Library facilities and controls the length of time allowed per user.
What can I do on the computer I reserve and what types of software are available?

Every computer on the reservation system provides access to the Internet and Office 2013. Click here for a complete list of software.

Each computer also has USB ports for using flash (jump) drives. When reserving a computer, choose between the following PC types:

  • Desktop
  • Laptop (at selected Branches)

If using just the Internet, select "Desktop." A limited number of external floppy disk drives are available but are no longer being purchased once lost or damaged. Patrons are encouraged to use flash (jump) drives for their personal work.

All computers also have access to the Library Catalog and other online resources.

Please Note: The Library does not use filters or intentionally block any site (see Internet and Computer Use Rules for more details). Some Web sites may not allow library users to fully utilize or access their resources.

Can I print from Library computers?

Black & white printing is 10¢ per page; color printing is 40¢ per page at the Main Library only.

Printing in the Library

How long is each session?
Everyone with a library card is entitled to use the computers for up to one hour every day. The last session of each day at the branches is 15 minutes long; at the Main, the last session is 45 minutes long. Computers may not be used 15 minutes prior to closing.
How much time can I reserve on the computers?
You can reserve up to one hour per day.
Can I reserve a computer for later in the day if I’ve already used some of my allotted time that day?
Yes. You may make an advance reservation as long as you have at least 5 minutes remaining in your daily allotment of 60 minutes.
Why am I restricted to one hour per day for the whole library system?

Computers are very popular. The time limit provides equal access to all users and makes more computers available.

Manipulation of / bypassing SFPL computer systems or databases to override established limits is prohibited and may result in suspension of computer privileges. Refusal to comply may result in suspension of library privileges.

See also Library Use Guidelines

Are all computers controlled by the computer reservation system?
No, some of the computers are designated for Library Catalog and online databases only and others for specialized CD-ROM databases. These may not be reserved; however they can be used to reserve other computers throughout the library system.
Do I need a library card to use the computer reservation system?
Yes. Your current library card number entitles you to reserve and use computers for up to one hour every day. For visitors, temporary residents and others without library cards, the Library provides Internet Express computers which can be used for 15 minutes at a time. These computers are located throughout the Main Library and at most branches. At their discretion, librarians may provide one-time guest passes to users.
How far in advance can I reserve a computer?
You can reserve a computer for today and the next two days. You can do this at the Library or from any computer connected to the Internet. (Sorry, we do not accept telephone or mail reservations.) Your San Francisco Public Library card number and PIN will be required.
Can I retain control of the computer if I need to leave during my session?
Yes. Click the "Timeout" button. A message appears and tells you the computer will be held for 10 minutes. When you return, enter your PIN to continue your session. The time spent on standby is deducted from your allotment for the session. If you don't enter your PIN within 10 minutes of putting the computer on standby, your session will end automatically.
What happens if I’m late or miss my reservation time?

Reservations on Main Library computers are held for 5 minutes after the hour begins. If you do not claim your reservation in that time, your session will be canceled, the computer will become available for another user and 5 minutes will be deducted from your daily allotment. However, you may reserve another slot (for 55 minutes) for another time the same day or locate an available computer.

Reservations on branch computers are held for 3 minutes after the half-hour begins. If you do not claim your reservation in that time, your session will be canceled, the computer will become available for another user and 3 minutes will be deducted from your daily allotment. However, you may reserve another slot (for 27 minutes) for another time the same day or locate an available computer.

What should I do if someone is sitting at the computer I have reserved and refuses to leave?

If you have informed the individual that you have reserved this computer and he/she refuses to move – report it to library staff.

Preventing others from claiming computer reservations or turns at Express computers either verbally or physically (for instance, sitting at the computer not logged in) is prohibited and may result in suspension of library privileges.

See also Library Use Guidelines

What should I do if I suspect someone is using my library card number to use a computer?

If you suspect someone is using your library card number – whether to use a computer or to check out library materials – report it to library staff and ask for a new PIN.

Fraudulent use of another’s Library card number to reserve or use computers is prohibited and may result in suspension of library privileges.

See also Library Use Guidelines

How do I know if the time on the computers is accurate?
Each computer should show the same, official time on the login screen, since every computer gets its time from the Internet through the Library’s server. Once a session begins, a countdown clock shows how much official time remains in the session. (The time on each computer’s taskbar – in the lower right-hand corner – is not connected to the server and should not be used to calculate the time remaining in your session.)
Take our survey