(Updated September 2022)
In case you want to jump straight to the list of libraries for non-residents, click below. Otherwise, I would appreciate if you read a little about pirating and how online libraries are becoming a more realistic alternative.
Online Libraries as a Response to Book Pirating
We’ve been having a lot of conversations recently in the book world on why pirating books is bad, and if you know anything about me, you know I’m real passionate about supporting the publishing industry and authors. Naturally, I hate illegal downloads, but let’s save the chat on why for another time. Right now, let’s discuss library access.
“Just use libraries!” is the overwhelming response I see to people who admit to stealing books. I’ve been guilty of this over-simplified answer as well. While this is absolutely a viable option for like 95% of the reading community (and studies have been done to prove that most pirating is done by this crowd, so libraries should absolutely be pushed as an alternative), there are a few who simply don’t have access, whether it be by virtue of location, lack of transportation, or just that their library doesn’t carry the books that they’d like to read.
(Another side note: Even if they aren’t at that particular branch, most librarians are happy to help you get the books you want if you ask them. They might not know there’s a desire for that book if you don’t mention it, and 99.9% of librarians are as in love with books as we are, so they get the struggle.)
Because no matter how great they are, often libraries around the world just don’t measure up to the library system we have here in the US. Which is where libraries for non-residents come into play.
If you’re looking for other ways to read that are free and don’t hurt the publishing industry (besides libraries for non-residents), check out my post on how to read books online for free.
Online Libraries Anyone Can Join
BUT, if you fall into this category (or even just want to widen your potential reading material), there are a few more options you might want to check out before you give up. There are quite a few libraries around the country that offer non-residential library cards which allow you to access their audiobook and ebook library catalogue — most only encompass the United States, but there are two options for libraries for non-residents that are also open to international readers.
They do cost a fee (some a bit pricier than others), but that’s because their residents pay for library services with their tax dollars. If you have the cash though, I definitely think it’s worth it for those on a budget to pay a fee costing the price of two or three books in exchange for a year’s access to a collection of free ebooks and audiobooks. One piece of advice, however — make sure you check out the catalogue for any library you consider, as they do vary in size and selection.
All of the libraries listed below have non-residential options and include online resources. For the sake of making things a little simpler, I went as far in the application process as I could without paying so that I could check out any extra requirements that might be a barrier for some people. For the most part, the ones that do require more information are usually just asking for some form of ID, but I have marked those where I found that to be the case.
Most libraries for non-residents also allow you to get your library card online, but if the application requires a mail-in or email-in form, I’ve included that info so you aren’t surprised. None of these, however, should require you to physically visit the branch for your card. Finally, I’ve also marked which libraries use the more popular ebook apps, in case you already have a preference on how you access and download ebooks.
I’ve also included the list of libraries for non-residents as both an image and a table so you can choose how best to view it.
Online Libraries for Non-residents
|State||can i get it online?||is it limited to residents of the state or country?||is there a fee?||other requirements?||Overdrive||axis360||ePULP||hoopla||cloudLibrary||libby||EBSCOhost||AudioBookCloud||SimplyE||mp3 download|
|Orange County Library System||FL||yes||out of state and country||$175 for a year, $75 for 3 months||driver’s license, passport, ID||x||x||x||x||x|
|Queens Public Library||NY||yes||out of state and country||$50 for a year||x||x||x|
|Brooklyn Public Library||NY||yes||out of state||$50 for a year||x||x||x||x|
|Monroe County Library System||NY||no, by mail||out of state||$25 for a year||x||x|
|Charlotte Mecklenburg Library||NC||yes||out of state||$45 for a year per household||driver’s license, passport, ID||x||x||x|
|Chapel Hill Public Library||NC||yes||out of state||$65 for a year||x|
|Houston Public Library||TX||yes||out of state||$40 for a year, $20 for 6 months||ID||x||x||x||x|
|Fairfax County||VA||yes||out of state||$27 for a year||x||x||x|
|The New York Society Library||NY||yes||out of state||$100 a year for electronic membership||x|
|Charleston Library||SC||yes (i think)||out of state and in limited countries: Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, United Kingdom||$75 a year for students, $150+ for normal||x|
|The Mercentile Library||OH||yes||out of state + overseas armed forces||$55 for a year||x||x|
|Redwood Library & Anthenaeum||RI||yes||out of state||$30 a year for students, $75 for normal||x|
|New Orleans Public Library||LO||no, by email||out of state||$50 for a year||x||x||x|
|Westchester Library System||NY||no, by mail||out of state||$75 a year||x||x|
Libraries Offering Library Cards Online for non-residents
Brooklyn Public Library (According to Lyn in the comments and an email from Anne, this one is no longer being offered. Thanks to those readers for pointing this out!)
Broward County Library — This is a new one suggested by Audra in the comments, so I’m listing it here. I haven’t added it to the table because according to their website you must visit the branch in person, which I know can be a barrier to the majority of people searching for this page. It costs $50 per year.
Suggest Libraries for non-residents & Other Resources
If you find that any of the information on this page is incorrect or have another resource you think belongs here, please comment below or shoot me a message! I’m hoping to periodically go through this page and continue to add to it so it stays up to date, but I am only one person and would very much appreciate your input. (Especially if you know of any libraries for non-residents I may have missed!)
I hope that this page makes things a little easier for someone out there who is searching for alternatives — wider accessibility, after all, is one of the biggest reasons why libraries are important, and I want this page to help a little more in making those resources visible.
Sources I Used
There are a couple of places that helped me in compiling this list of libraries for non-residents — I’m crediting them here:
An additional resource that is similar to the links above but specifically caters to readers with disabilities:
Bookshare.org — free for students, $50 for US readers. (Other countries vary in pricing — check their website for more.)
This Post Has 32 Comments
I’ve had a Brooklyn Public Library non-resident card for a few years and this year when I went to renew I learned that they have decided to no longer offer this 🙁 Thank you for your list, so I can find another (my local northern MI public library is very limited for audiobooks).
Oh no! Thank you so much for the update though — adding to my list of things to fix! Planning to go on the hunt for others soon!
I just added Broward a few weeks ago. I didn’t have to visit the branch nor did I pay a fee.
Lyn – did you find a replacement? I’m the same as you – Just learned I could not renew my Brooklyn library card. Now I’m looking and trying to figure out how you look at the selection to find one that’s selection choices are as good as Brooklyn’s.
Thank you!!! Several years ago I went looking for an out-of-state library & there wasn’t much help available. I finally found Brooklyn, but as Lyn noted, they’re stopping the service. Based on your list, I tried the Queens library & they have an even better selection of audiobooks – about 25% more, I think. Same $50/year fee.
Oh, fantastic! So glad to hear you found a replacement!
Thanks to a Reddit post I was able to sign up for a free library card from Broward County Florida using my out of state address.
Thank you for passing this on! I will add it to the list 🙂
I’m in Houston and from what I can see Hoopla is only offered with movies and music but no books or audiobooks.
The Brooklyn Public Library sent me this response when I tried to renew my $50/year out-of-state card:
>As of July 15, 2022, Brooklyn Public Library is no longer offering its fee-based out-of-state library card. Our priority remains serving Brooklynites and assuring that they can access the materials they need in a timely manner. BPL Library cards remain free for anyone who lives, works, pays property taxes or attends school in New York State. Existing out-of-state accounts will remain active until their expiration date and will not be renewable.
Thank you! I’ve added a note but will be fixing the table soon!
Broward doesn’t require an in person visit – I just signed up online last night 🙂 super quick and easy! And free!
Thank you for letting me know! I’ve just signed up as well–have a feeling they might regret this with the sudden influx of people they are getting! But will update soon 🙂
Unfortunately Brooklyn Public library no longer allows out of state sign-ups. Current users (like me until today) are OK until their subscription expires. Very sad, they had a gr8 e-book collection.
Yes, I think this is what is driving so many people to this page! People searching for Brooklyn alternatives 🙁
I would add to that opening monologue by saying that for people who want to read in English, yet live in a country where that’s not the native language, it’s almost impossible to get to read books without buying them or pirating them. I know I would love to just walk into a library and read whatever book I want, but these libraries just don’t exist in my country. I know the point of this wasn’t to find international online libraries (not sure if these even exist), but it’s just another thing to keep in mind when talking about the pirating issue.
I actually did address this in my opener 🙂 Two of the libraries on this list are open to international readers
You are AWESOME!!! I cannot thank you enough for doing this work and offering as free information. I have been a BPL member for 3 years and just got the devastating news my card expires indefinitely in April. I was miserable until I found this helpful table/information you provided. There’s hope!!!
I contacted Monroe County Library today and was told they do not offer cards to non-residents at this time. I am also looking to replace my Brooklyn membership.
Yes I too just found out regarding Brooklyn Public Library not renewing their non-resident cards, very sad. Checking around I have found a couple not on your list: Cincinnati and Hamilton County Library (Ohio) at $90 per year and Dayton Metro Library (also Ohio) at $25 per year. My local library (Multnomah County Library in OR and Los Angeles Public Library (CA) both have non-resident cards but you must apply in person. I am planning to try one of the Ohio libraries and see how it goes. Thanks for your list!
Thanks for these tips! I just signed up at Broward, too. I am a local member of the Charleston County Library, but their audiobook selection is relatively small. There are a lot of incomplete book series, which is a big put off. My Indianapolis library card expired recently, and having moved, I couldn’t renew my card. The loss of all those audiobooks hurt! I’ve only had a quick glance, but the Broward County selection looks very promising. What a relief!
The Charleston County Public Library does not offer out-of-state library cards anymore. They are only available to people in adjacent counties.
Just want to thank you for taking the time to post this information.
I’m another disappointed Brooklyn user searching for a subsitute. I think I’ll give Queens a shot based on Mr McLachlan’s post.
You might consider adding the Free Library of Philadelphia to your list. They don’t have as good a selection as Brooklyn, but it isn’t horrible, and its free to senior citizens.
Prince George’s county memorial library And Kansas City public library have a non-resident options. When I got mine it was free.
Richland Counth Public Library in SC offers non-resident cards! They use hoopla and Libby.
Las Vegas (Clark County) has also killed their online access. They have something like over 200,000 eBooks and audiobooks, but as of 3/27/23, it’ll only be accessible for Clark County residents. Major bummer. The San Diego public library offers out-of-state resident access for a fee or last time I checked. Not the biggest selection, so didn’t sign up at the time.
The Houston library checks your name matches the address some how… not able to obtain no-resident access 😫
The Spokane WA public library offers a non-resident card for $42 per year. https://www.spokanelibrary.org/get-a-library-card
NY Public Library says Queens Library card holders may use their existing card once it is linked to their NYPL account.
I’m not sure if this is possible with the Queens non-resident card or if you have to go into a NYPL branch to link your card. But if it works, that would be a huge win as they seem to have a massive digital library.
I’m yet another Brooklyn-alternative seeker! I’m grateful for the other comments, especially the one comparing Queen’s audiobook selection to Brooklyn. But what about ebook selection? It would be incredible if you could add a column stating the size of each library’s ebook/audiobook selection somewhere in your chart, although I know that would be a decent amount of work. Thank you for what you’ve done here!
I finally got my NR library card from Fairfax County! I will say, though, I waited a WHOLE MONTH for it. Their website says five days processing time, but once that time passed, I emailed them. They then told me the new processing time was ten days due to the volume. Understandable at first. I applied on March 31st and didn’t get the library card until April 27th. Not complaining by any means; I know some people may get worried and not understand why it’s taking so long. This is why. I guess many people are signing up for this card, and at this price, I don’t blame them! So just be patient; you’ll get it eventually. But if you want access to essential programs and books as soon as possible, I suggest you start now.
Thank you for this helpful list! FYI, Queens and Orange County now charge a fee.