What's the best digital library card for non-residents?
December 6, 2022 10:22 AM   Subscribe

The Brooklyn Public Library has ended its popular non-resident library card program, which really sucks, because their e-book selection is excellent. Does anyone know of another large library system that allows non-residents to pay a fee and receive a library card in exchange?

The Brooklyn Public Library card has been a huge hit in our non-Brooklyn dwelling family, and I now am tasked with finding a replacement. Help! I don't mind paying.
posted by msali to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
If you want to stay within the five boroughs, Queens Public Library is still in this business, and is the largest public library system I know of that has the option. Houston (TX) is another big one.

Charlotte Mecklenberg (NC) and Orange County (FL) don't have collections the size of BPL, but they do offer a non-resident option. Last I checked, Enoch Pratt (Baltimore, MD), Chapel Hill (NC), and Fairfax County (VA) still had non-resident cards as well.
posted by box at 10:51 AM on December 6, 2022 [5 favorites]

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's website says:
“Out of State Residents: As a resident outside of Pennsylvania you will be asked to pay a $30.00 Out of State fee to register for a library card. This card must be renewed every two years at any CLP location.”
...but I don't know how hard and fast that renew-in-person rule is.
posted by D.Billy at 11:08 AM on December 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Houston's, at $40/yr, is a great deal. Non-resident card overview; you can also check on free-card options through state of residence; this site lists Orange County, Florida & Queens County, NY for out-of-country borrowers.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:14 AM on December 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

Los Angeles allows this option. San Francisco used to, but they don't any more!
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:21 PM on December 6, 2022

Between moving and grad school I have active library cards with Charlotte- Mecklenburg, Chapel Hill and Durham, NC. Based on their Libby catalogs, Charlotte consistently has more titles, more copies and thus shorter wait times.
posted by raccoon409 at 12:27 PM on December 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

As far as I can tell, Los Angeles doesn't allow this option--you can get a physical card if you're a CA resident, but you have to pick it up in person, and e-cards are only available to Los Angeles residents. I don't see any non-resident fee-based option on their website.
posted by epj at 1:23 PM on December 6, 2022

i find this interesting, because typically vendor contracts restrict libraries from allowing non resident members access to ebooks. (ie, vendors being the companies selling/leasing access to ebooks and the platforms that enable usage, such as overdrive/libby). my experience is that as a non resident i can often get a non resident membership at many libraries, but this non resident membership can only do certain things— usually it’s limited to borrowing physical material. terminology note that an “e card” usually means you can register online— it does not necessarily mean you can borrow “e” content.
caveat that i’m a librarian outside the US, but the vendors we deal with are all american companies who impose these restrictions. perhaps houston, queens, etc are simply choosing to flout the contracts? if so, good on em.
posted by tamarack at 6:19 AM on December 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Thanks to Iris Gambol's link, I just registered for a non-resident library card for Queens, New York, at $50/yr; the Houston library system apparently objected, without making it explicit, that I was outside of the US. I am bad at remembering when I must pretend to be outside of Sweden via a VPN so I tried Queens and it worked. The form allowed me to choose from a bunch of non-US countries but for some reason, in my case, insisted I choose a US state as well so I used my US voting address to register. This is merely FYI for future readers. I have been meaning to get such a card for ages so thank you so much for this question, msali!
posted by Bella Donna at 6:48 AM on December 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

All public libraries in Ohio offer digital cards to Ohio residents.
posted by slogger at 8:13 AM on December 7, 2022

The (superb) SLC library is $80 a year for non-residents, so $40 does sound like a deal.
posted by my log does not judge at 9:00 AM on December 7, 2022

Thanks for the info. I was able to register for Queens using my UK address with no problems.
posted by little apollo at 1:34 PM on December 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

This is AMAZING - thank you for asking this question, msali!
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 5:06 PM on December 7, 2022

If you have flexible morals, Chicago lets one sign up with just an address.

I've heard both sides of whether one should do such a thing.
posted by booooooze at 10:02 AM on December 8, 2022

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