(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.)