Library Access for Everyone

  • Post last modified:October 30, 2022

(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

Libraries for non-residents
 Statecan i get it online?is it limited to residents of the state or country?is there a fee?other requirements?Overdriveaxis360ePULPhooplacloudLibrarylibbyEBSCOhostAudioBookCloudSimplyEmp3 download
Orange County Library SystemFLyesout of state and country$175 for a year, $75 for 3 monthsdriver’s license, passport, IDxxxxx     
Queens Public LibraryNYyesout of state and country$50 for a year xx     x  
Brooklyn Public LibraryNYyesout of state$50 for a year x    xx x 
Monroe County Library SystemNYno, by mailout of state$25 for a year x        x
Charlotte Mecklenburg LibraryNCyesout of state$45 for a year per householddriver’s license, passport, IDx  x  x   
Chapel Hill Public LibraryNCyesout of state$65 for a year x         
Houston Public LibraryTXyesout of state$40 for a year, $20 for 6 monthsIDxx x  x   
Fairfax CountyVAyesout of state$27 for a year x    xx   
The New York Society LibraryNYyesout of state$100 a year for electronic membership     x     
Charleston LibrarySCyes (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 LibraryOHyesout of state + overseas armed forces$55 for a year x    x    
Redwood Library & AnthenaeumRIyesout of state$30 a year for students, $75 for normal     x     
New Orleans Public LibraryLOno, by emailout of state$50 for a year x  xx     
Westchester Library SystemNYno, by mailout of state$75 a year x  x      

Libraries Offering Library Cards Online for non-residents

Orange County Library System

Queens Public Library

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!)

Monroe County Library System

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Chapel Hill Public Library

Houston Public Library

Fairfax County Library

The New York Society Library

Charleston Library

The Mercantile Library

Redwood Library & Anthenaeum

New Orleans Public Library

Westchester Library System

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:

A World Adventure by Book

QZ

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.)

Much love,

 

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This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Lyn

    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).

    1. gracepursel

      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!

  2. Jim MacLachlan

    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.

    1. gracepursel

      Oh, fantastic! So glad to hear you found a replacement!

    1. gracepursel

      Thank you for passing this on! I will add it to the list 🙂

  3. Regan

    I’m in Houston and from what I can see Hoopla is only offered with movies and music but no books or audiobooks.

  4. Dave

    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.

    1. gracepursel

      Thank you! I’ve added a note but will be fixing the table soon!

  5. Gina

    Broward doesn’t require an in person visit – I just signed up online last night 🙂 super quick and easy! And free!

    1. gracepursel

      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 🙂

  6. Eugene

    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.

    1. gracepursel

      Yes, I think this is what is driving so many people to this page! People searching for Brooklyn alternatives 🙁

  7. Szilvi

    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.

    1. gracepursel

      I actually did address this in my opener 🙂 Two of the libraries on this list are open to international readers

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