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?