In Praise of Statewide Library Cards

I was living in New Hampshire when I got my MLS, so thought it was the norm for libraries to charge non-residents huge fees to use their collections (the next town over from mine was still pretty small, as was its collection, but charged $200 a year for a library card if you didn’t live there!).  True, you could usually get a card for free if you worked in a town, but many people didn’t have that option and were stuck with our tiny library with extremely limited hours.  Using the library for all my entertainment needs, as I do now, just wasn’t feasible when there was a three year wait list for any bestseller.

So you can imagine how delighted I was when I moved to Colorado to discover they had a statewide library card.  It’s a great program, with no chargebacks to libraries – you can even return things to any library in the state.  In CO, all public libraries participate and many school district, academic and special libraries do too.  Though the database providers have now limited access for non-residents, I’m still thrilled that I can use Douglas County Libraries’ collection since they have a seven day pickup on holds rather than my home library’s much shorter one (it’s so convenient to just have to go one day a week).

I realize some people may feel that they shouldn’t have to subsidize services for out of area customers (kind of like those districts that charge non-residents when they respond to an accident scene), but we’re all in this together and we are all taxed for services that we don’t use (e.g. everyone pays for schools, though childless people don’t use them).

And I was pleased to discover that this isn’t just a Colorado thing.  As of October 2008, 12 states (including three other BCR member states – Iowa, Kansas and Wyoming) have some kind of statewide library card, though some do have limitations and library chargebacks. 

So tell me, what do you think about this?  Is it something you could see working in your state?

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6 Responses to In Praise of Statewide Library Cards

  1. wyoming libraryuser says:

    I love my statewide card in Wyoming. Towns are far enough apart that I don’t often pick up holds at other libraries, but when I am in another city I often stop in to see what they have and check out new materials. This is especially great for audio material to listen to on the LONG trips it takes to get from place to place.

  2. Justine Shaffner says:

    Thanks for your comment! And with your card, you don’t have to worry that you’ll finish an audiobook and not be able to get another or that you may not like the one you have and then will be stuck listening to it during that long windy drive!

  3. Justine Shaffner says:

    from Michael S. Hart
    Project Gutenberg,
    Inventor of ebooks


    Local library cards are just another way of preserving ye olde differentiations between The Haves and The Have Nots.

    Of course, the same is true of using property taxes for a school district, or other such districts.

    On a closely related subject, we might also discuss about the various virtual references systems around the country and around the world that do or do not allow questions to their librarians from those outside certain map lines.

    Some of us would prefer that we were all united in what a lot of laws call “universal education” or the like, while some of us would prefer to contine ye olde “Us and Them.”

    There is certainly a lot to talk about on these subjects, and for those who wish to consider high tech services and related subjects, I strongly suggest “The Diamond Age” by Neal Stephenson, which addresses them quite well.

    Thanks for bringing this up!!!

  4. Bones says:

    This i a really great idea. Anywhere in Colorado? Wow!

    Texas’ problem is that El Paso is a good day’s drive from any other Texan metropolis, same with Corpus Christi. Or maybe having big cities near the Mexico, New Mexico, and Louisiana borders as well as in the center of the state would be a good thing? Only one way to find out…

  5. jshaffner says:

    What about a country-wide library card – or a North American one? Now that would really mean we serve everyone

  6. Pingback: The Librarian is IN » Blog Archive » Great Marketing Idea

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