In recent years, I have collected multiple library cards for digital content so that I can access books and media I am interested in without having to leave the house. My local library has a ton of awesome online services, but I’ve been able to discover even more programs through reciprocal library agreements and applying for digital library cards in the surrounding area so I can check out a seemingly unlimited amount of content that I wouldn’t be able to find at home or through accessible libraries for people with print disabilities. Here are my tips for how to request multiple library cards for digital content and search for library services, aimed at homebound library users or blind/low vision users like me. After all, having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card!
Examples of digital content available from libraries
I can’t read print copies of books due to a visual impairment/print disability, so when I am checking out libraries and deciding if I want to get a library card, I look at offerings for digital content. This can include:
- eBooks, magazines, and audiobooks on OverDrive, Libby, and Sora- libraries may have access to different titles
- Video streaming on platforms like Kanopy, Hoopla, and Qello, which offer different titles and can provide users with extra borrowing privileges
- Educational apps and websites for learning a new language or getting tutoring help
- Music downloads and streaming from Freegal Music
- Online classes, book clubs, and demonstrations- I’ve attended virtual art classes, book talks, cooking classes, and writing workshops
There are so many other digital library resources that I haven’t mentioned here, and I highly recommend browsing individual libraries for more information. Another option is to search for the name of the service followed by “library card”; for example, if I was looking for libraries that offer Qello concerts, I might look up “Qello concerts library card” to find available libraries.
- My Favorite Digital Library Resources For Low Vision
- Sora Free Audiobook Summer Reading Programs
- How I Watch Concert Videos Without Strobe Lights
- What I’ve Learned About Print Disabilities
First, start with local libraries
I have a library card for the library in the town where I live, which offers several digital resources such as audiobooks, eBooks, and options for accessing online databases and library events. I can also talk to a librarian on the phone who can help with research or finding local resources, as well as troubleshooting issues with mobile applications and library services.
I know this post is primarily about having multiple library cards for digital resources, but I wanted to give a special shout-out to the fun in-person events my local library hosts as well, which range from hybrid book clubs and classes to therapy dog reading programs- the therapy dog programs were my absolute favorite as a child, and I like that participants can read digital library resource to the dogs as well.
- Therapy Dog Reading Programs and Low Vision
- How To Find Accessible Picture Books For Low Vision
- How I Find Research Sources In Accessible Formats
With the local library card, search for reciprocal borrowing agreements
As part of my local library card, I am eligible for library cards in other surrounding cities and counties- there is a list of different libraries on my “home” library’s website. For example, having my Fairfax County (VA) library card allows me to apply for library cards for the DC Public Library and several surrounding cities/counties in Virginia and Maryland. These forms can be filled out online, and users will have their library card number emailed to them within a few minutes.
Check for libraries available to residents of the state, not just city/county
Some libraries allow all residents of the state to request a digital library card, not just residents of the city/county where the library is located. Some libraries will give state residents free cards, while others will provide library access for outside residents for a fee. I recommend running a web search for “Library card for (state) residents.”
For people with visual impairments or other print disabilities, many states also have a library for accessible books or other resources for accessing library services with vision loss. The state department/state unit for visual impairment can provide more specific information about this.
- US Government Programs For Blind/Low Vision Residents
- Services Provided By State Department/State Unit for Visual Impairment
Get a library card for the area near college/workplace
People who go to school or work in a given city/county can apply for a library card from the local library, even if they don’t live there. Even though my permanent address wasn’t near my college, I was able to get a library card for the town I went to college in and use their virtual services, even while I was at home for breaks.
Consider a non-resident card for digital resources
Some libraries offer non-resident cards for a fee that can be used for accessing digital resources. I had a non-resident card a few years ago for a library that had a lot of unique digital services I couldn’t get at my home library, like unlimited music streaming, virtual tutoring, and eBook titles on Libby and OverDrive that I couldn’t find anywhere else.
Most libraries offer non-resident cards for $35 to $150 a year, depending on the library. However, there are some libraries that offer non-resident cards for free, such as Laurel County Public Library. For the most up-to-date information, I recommend running a web search for non-resident library cards.
- Reading Magazines With The Libby App And Low Vision
- Get a Library Card – Laurel County Public Library (laurellibrary.org)
For teens and young adults- consider a Books Unbanned card
Books Unbanned is a nationwide program that offers free digital library cards for teens and young adults to access complete digital collections for regional libraries. As of publishing time, Brooklyn Public Library offers free cards to users 13-21, and Seattle Public Library offers free cards to users 13-26. Users under 18 do not need parental consent through these programs, and more information on how to apply is shared on individual library websites.
- Books Unbanned | Brooklyn Public Library (bklynlibrary.org)
- Books Unbanned | The Seattle Public Library (spl.org)
More tips for how to request multiple library cards for digital content
- I typically read books from the library on my eReader or browse for content on my iPad tablet- learn more about choosing an eReader in Mainstream Technology and Low Vision: eReaders
- Some libraries will mail a physical card to users, while others will just send an email with the library card and PIN. I have physical library cards for less than half of the libraries that I belong to
- A few libraries in my area require an in-person visit to activate library cards, but I was able to get this requirement waived by calling and sharing that I couldn’t travel to the library in-person due to a disability