It used to be that the only way to take advantage of a public library was to visit a local building. Now, it’s possible to use many library services from anywhere in the world, sometimes without ever having visited in person at all.
Many libraries make eBooks, audiobooks, and videos readily available to their users via the Internet. One of the largest digital distributors for public libraries is OverDrive, whose catalog of 2 million items is available via libraries in over 40 countries. OverDrive’s app, Libby, allows users to check out materials and view them on iOS, Android, Kindle and Windows devices. Libby even has bookmarks that remember where you left off. Best of all: your materials are returned automatically on the due date — no fines!
Most libraries that use OverDrive and other digital resources are available free of charge to users who can establish that they have residency in a given city or state. Some libraries, including Brooklyn, Fairfax County, and Houston, offer membership to anyone for an annual fee.
Countless other resources can be available to online library users. Some examples include movies and television shows at Hoopla, language learning from Mango, online courses through LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda), and access to current magazines through Flipster. Many libraries will even allow you to submit research requests or schedule reference appointments with librarians via email or telephone.
Before becoming a “virtual” library user, read through the application carefully. Fees, lengths of membership, and registration requirements can vary considerably. Also, make sure a library’s offerings meet your needs. Most will allow you to see lists of the services available and preview their catalogs before enrolling.
Happy reading, listening, and learning!
Written by Erin Fitzgerald, GMS, Content Manager