University library card privileges?
August 21, 2013 7:36 AM   Subscribe

Inspired by the rap battle over in Meta, does anyone have suggestions on how to get a library card at a US research university without being a current student or faculty member? Is there such a thing as an independent researcher?
posted by leotrotsky to Education (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I have a library card for the research university in the town where I live - I don't work or go there, but I do pay $25/year for the privilege.
posted by 41swans at 7:39 AM on August 21, 2013

Best answer: Ask. They'll either give you a card or they won't. They may charge you a nominal fee for it.

But, in general, and contrary to what certain people in the linked Meta might have to believe, academic libraries and academic librarians aren't actually in the business of restricting access to their collections. I'd be very surprised if you weren't able to come to some sort of arrangement with a local university.
posted by valkyryn at 7:41 AM on August 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This depends highly on the university. Some universities, like the University of Pennsylvania, offer a "courtesy service" (in Penn's case, it's $400 annually if you have no connection to Penn.) Often state schools, like Temple in the case of Pennsylvania, are required to offer access to state residents. It looks like you may be in Indiana, in which case you're in luck! If there's a specific item or collection that you're interested in, you should contact the library to ask about procedures and access. Smaller libraries, especially at SLAC (not research universities) often have more open stacks and access policies.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:42 AM on August 21, 2013

I work at a big research university. They offer a library card for $100/yr. That gets you borrowing privileges and, I think, access to the main stacks. But anyone can use inter library loan, and anyone can walk in and use the electronic resources. This includes journal access.
posted by expialidocious at 7:44 AM on August 21, 2013

Depends on the university, but the Research I university in my town makes access available to non-university affiliated residents for $20 a year. That includes borrowing privileges, on-site computer use (including database access), and basic reference service. No off-site database access, no interlibrary loan privileges. Still, that's dirt cheap to get access to the stacks.
posted by cog_nate at 7:47 AM on August 21, 2013

I was looking into this myself a few years ago at UC Berkeley. Many of the departmental libraries are open to the public for browsing, but for borrowing privileges and access to the main stacks at Moffit you do need a card. IIRC they were pretty expensive, with discounts for alumni and students and faculty of other schools.
posted by clorox at 7:52 AM on August 21, 2013

Many of the departmental libraries are open to the public

On second thought, I never actually looked into this bit too thoroughly. I just know that I, a white guy of college age wearing a backpack, was never given any trouble while visiting them.
posted by clorox at 7:55 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are in the location in your profile (Indianapolis), you are eligible for a library card from IUB. Bring your driver's license. It's free.
posted by capricorn at 8:24 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

You can actually request access to the main stacks at Berkeley for a day (but not Moffit, which is weird given that you can walk into Moffit from the main stacks, but in any case you'd want to go to the main stacks) to do research for free, but they're not obliged to let you in (I have no idea if they're likely to refuse or if it's just protection against cranks). They're also obliged to give you access to some government documents, but they can do that by bringing them to you rather than letting you in. California residents can get a library card (access to the stacks and borrowing privileges) for $100/year. I can't remember if you can get journal access without a log in.
posted by hoyland at 8:38 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

My state university is required to allow any state resident borrowing privileges. HOWEVER you should be aware that some resources are restricted by contracts. Most of the major database vendors such as EBSCO and JSTOR put limitations on which types of patrons are allowed to use their materials (and the subscriptions are costly and funded by student fees and tuition). So you may be able to borrow books, but you may or may not be able to use ILL, access databases, etc. Depends on the university.

In short, call them and ask about "community borrower privileges."
posted by epanalepsis at 8:45 AM on August 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

In San Jose CA the Dr. Martin King Jr library is run jointly by San Jose State University and the city of San Jose, so any resident can get a card and you have access to all the university research resources. I just know this one because it's near where I live, but in general many universities have community borrowing privileges.
posted by GuyZero at 8:51 AM on August 21, 2013

I grew up across the street from a college, and they offered free library cards to neighbors as a courtesy. As a high school student, it was awesome to use their books and study rooms.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:00 AM on August 21, 2013

Our library allows anyone to come in and use the books and a selection of databases within the library during a slightly restricted set of hours as we need to keep the library reserved for students during the times they congregate the most, and allows checkout privileges for community members who are part of a statewide library sharing network (joined simply by being a resident of the state and asking their local participating library for a card).

We also offer checkout privileges and off-campus access to a larger range of databases to certain levels of Friends of the Library, and to university donors who give at a certain level annually.
posted by telophase at 10:24 AM on August 21, 2013

If you attended a university you may be eligible for an alumni card which may have reciprocal rights with other university libraries.
posted by saucysault at 11:40 AM on August 21, 2013

Is there such a thing as an independent researcher?

The National Coalition of Independent Scholars
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 5:19 AM on August 22, 2013

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