Did you know that many states have at least one library that lets you apply for a free library card online to use on Overdrive, Hoopla, and other databases regardless of where you live in that state? It’s a very nifty resource, especially for those who live in small towns with limited libraries (or those who don’t even live within easy driving distance of any libraries at all). Keep reading to find out where to get one in your state!
- Where to Get a Free Library Card Online in Your State
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington, DC
- West Virginia
- Why It’s Smart to Have More Than One Library Card
- Tips & Recommendations
Where to Get a Free Library Card Online in Your State
A few years ago, I came across The Free Library of Philadelphia, which lets any PA resident apply for a free library card online and use it to access their digital collections on Overdrive and similar ebook libraries.
So, I searched every single state to find their versions of the Free Library of Philadelphia. I shared what I found below.
Some states don’t really offer a statewide option, but do have good “reciprocity library consortiums.” In other words, if you have a card at one, you can use it at another (or use it to get a card at another).
If you expand the table of contents thingy below, you can quickly jump to your state. In states where I couldn’t find anything even remotely similar to the Free Library of Philadelphia, I tried to find you some other good alternatives/options.
I also provided links to Overdrive collections for library consortiums as well as in cases where it took a bit of digging to find it (some libraries have an obvious “digital resources” link, others sort of bury it or label it weird). I think that covers it.
The Alabama Virtual Library uses geolocation technology, so as long as you let it access your location, you don’t even need to sign up.
The Alaska State Library doesn’t really have a straightforward application process for residents. However, on their SLED,” (statewide library electronic doorway) page, they say, “If you’re an Alaska resident with an Alaskan area code, call 1-800-440-2919 for a password. Otherwise, Alaska residents can fill out our form to receive a password.
I can’t find any online statewide library that gives you access to Overdrive, but they do have something called Traveler Statewide Resources that offers a fairly decent selection of books and services. Like Alabama, you have to let it detect your location to access the resources.
Oddly, for a state as huge as CA, they don’t seem to have anything similar to the Free Library of Philadelphia (one central library for all residents). However, you can enter your phone number here and it’ll assign you a digital card based on where you live. I don’t have a CA phone number, so I’m not sure how it works beyond that.
CO residents can get a card through the Denver Public Library and gain access to Overdrive and most other e-reading databases (Kanopy is only available to Denver residents, though). Click here to register for an e-card.
It doesn’t look like CT lets you apply online for a card. However, if you follow the directions here, you can still apply from home. You’ll just need to mail in your application. I’m still looking for a better online solution. I’ll update you if/when I find one.
For Florida residents, your best bet is the Broward County Library, as it’s open to all Floridians and takes minutes to apply online.
Also, the Florida Electronic Library uses Geo-IP to check your IP against “a database of all IPs known to originate within Florida.” Once it validates your IP, you can access digital library resources without a card.
The Georgia Public Library Services website has a simple online application for a PINES card. It’s open to all Georgia residents and -according to its description- “gives you access to over 11 million library materials across more than 300 public libraries.”
Visit the Hawaii State Public Library System website to apply for your free library card. It’s open to all state residents. However, it looks like the virtual card is only good for 45 days. After that, you have to visit a local branch to prove your Hawaii residency.
Unfortunately, I can’t find anything like the Free Library of Philadelphia in Idaho. Since more than half of the library links I clicked on took me to the Donnelly Public Library District, that may be your best bet.
Illinois doesn’t seem to have a central free library, either, which I find weird for a state that has the nation’s 3rd largest city. Chicago residents can apply online, though, but you actually have to live in Chicago to use it.
All of Indiana’s libraries require residency in the areas that they serve. They don’t seem to offer a centralized option. Your best bet is to check Indiana Digital Download Center and click “need a library card” to find out how to apply in your area.
Iowa makes it fairly easy to grab a free library card online, but you will need to upload proof of residency with your application. Check out the State Library of Iowa’s request form for instructions.
Kansas has something called the Kansas Library eCard, which gives you access to their full online collection. However, you have to apply for this card at your local library. Check out their FAQs here for help with that.
As far as I can tell, all Kentucky libraries have residency requirements (as in, you must live in that area to get a card). You can try entering your zip code here to find one that has Overdrive.
Louisiana doesn’t seem to have anything like the Philly library, either. I can’t even find a central Overdrive database to give you so you can search for one in your area. Like KY, your best bet is to search Overdrive for one in your area.
Any MD resident can get a free library card online at the Carroll County Public Library or at the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System. The latter actually accepts not just MD residents, but also DC and some VA residents (such as those in Alexandria, Fairfax, Loudon, and other nearby counties).
Massachusetts has the Minutemen Library Network that lets any resident apply for a card that’s good for 6 months. After 6 months, you will need to visit a physical library branch to complete your application. In the meantime, though, it’s good for checking out books on Overdrive.
Michigan is a bit confusing. They don’t have anything like the Free Library of Philadelphia from what I can tell. However, they have something called the MILibraryCard. If you get one at a participating local library, you can use it to get another card at any other participating branch. Among them is the Detroit Public Library, which has a pretty robust Overdrive selection.
It looks like Minnesota offers multiple options for all residents, but the Red Wing Public Library has the easiest and most straight-forward application process. Check out their guidelines here. You can also click on “ebooks” at the top of their page and it’ll take you to their Overdrive. As soon as the page opens, a popup will ask if you need a card.
I can’t find any sort of single central “accepts all Mississippi residents” library. They do have an eBook Consortium on Overdrive, but I’m having a hard time finding a library that lets you apply online regardless of where in the state you live. Your best bet is to find your library on this “need a card” page.
Missouri doesn’t seem to have a central option, either. However, you can apply for a library card online at many of its larger branches. Most have some sort of reciprocity with other branches, meaning you can get a card at one and use the online resources for another (that’s usually how it works anyway, but don’t quote me on it).
- Try this one if you live in the Kansas City Metro region (including the 5 counties on the Kansas side).
- The Mid-Continent Library is a good choice for those who live in Clay, Platte, and Jackson County.
- The St. Charles City Library also has a list of reciprocal branches, so if you have a card at one, you can use the others.
The Missoula Public Library is open to ALL residents of Montana, and they have a pretty simple online application process. It may not look like it, but they do have an online collection. They call it the Montana Library to Go. I checked the link and it does take you to Overdrive.
NebrasKard is the “brand” name given to Nebraska’s reciprocal borrowing program among participating libraries. The program allows borrowers of participating libraries to borrow materials from other participating libraries, subject to the rules and regulations of those libraries.
Nevada doesn’t have a single statewide “for all residents” library. However, they do have a few good regional options with online applications.
- For Las Vegas/Clark County residents, apply online here.
- If you live in the Reno area, try the Washoe County library system.
- Carson City area, try this one.
While I couldn’t find a good option statewide, NH does seem to have a centralized Overdrive database. Use their “need a card” section to find your library. Not all offer online applications, though.
Given that the other two states in the tri-state area (PA and NY) have such stellar options, I had high hopes for NJ. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to offer anything similar to its neighbors. They do have a few good regional options with online applications, though.
- Jersey City residents apply here.
- Ocean County residents can apply online, but they say you need proof of residency and don’t really give instructions on providing it. Still, worth trying. They have a very nice digital resource collection!
- Cherry Hill residents, check out this page for their criteria, then this Google form to apply for a card.
- The Newark library’s application has options for those who work or go to school in the city (versus just those who live there).
It looks like Rio Rancho Library is your best bet. The RR website (the city’s site, not the actual library page, which is SUPER confusing) says that they’re open to all NM residents. They do have an online application process, but it’s not instant (someone gets back to you within about 48-72 hours). Once you get your card, here’s a link to their Overdrive.
The State Library of North Carolina is open to all residents, and your card gives you access to numerous digital resources (but not Overdrive, from what I can tell). They don’t have an “apply online and get approved the same day” option. However, you can download their application, then email it in.
Also, it looks like pretty much every library is part of the North Carolina Digital Library on Overdrive. Check “need a card” to find out how to apply online in your area.
ND residents can apply online for a card through the North Dakota State Library. Unfortunately, it’s not an instant process and it can take up to two weeks to get your card. Once you do get it, they have a link to their Overdrive is on the second slide in their slider on the front page.
The Cleveland Public Library is open to ALL residents of Ohio, and you can apply for a card online to use on Overdrive and Hoopla (here’s where you’ll find all of their digital resources and collection).
While there may be other options, I found an easy online application for ALL OK residents at the Woodward Public Library. They are part of the OK Virtual Library (the state’s main Overdrive collection).
Oregon doesn’t have a statewide library, but they do have a Digital Consortium on Overdrive with a long list of participating branches. They also have the Oregon Library Passport. If you have a card from one of their branches, you can use it at others on the list.
Visit the Free Library of Philadelphia and sign up here. It took me five minutes. Use their Digital Media section to find all of their online resources and libraries. They have a pretty stellar Overdrive collection!
All RI residents can get a free library card through Ocean State Libraries. While you can apply online, it doesn’t seem to be an instant thing. They mention waiting for your home library to contact you. However, once you have a card, you can use it at any RI library (and, I assume, their online databases).
It looks like you can get a South Carolina State Library card to use online ONLY if you don’t already have a card elsewhere. From what I can tell, though, they don’t have Overdrive.
South Dakota doesn’t have anything like the Free Library of Philadelphia. All of their libraries seem to have residency requirements. However, you can search the South Dakota Digital Consortium on Overdrive to find one near you.
While TN doesn’t seem to have a “free library for any resident” option, they do have the Tennessee Electronic Library that links all of their e-resource selections together. So, if you have a card for one library, you basically have access to what others offer online.
The Houston Public Library offers free library cards to all Texas residents. Find application details here. Once you have your card, check out their robust selection of eBook offerings (including Overdrive, Hoopla, and Kanopy) here.
So, Utah doesn’t really have a single statewide option to GET your library card, but once you do have one, you can access Utah’s Online Public Library, which includes the Beehive Library Consortium Overdrive collection. You can use the “need a card” feature to find one near you.
Vermont doesn’t have anything sort of statewide options, but they do have a central Overdrive. Again, your best bet is to check the list of participating libraries to find yours.
Quite a few VA libraries offer virtual cards (for Overdrive and such) for all Virginians, regardless of where in the state you live.
The Newport News Public Library is the first one I came across. Find their digital resources by clicking Stream and Download at the top of their page. There’s also Roanoke County Public Library and Portsmouth Public Library.
Washington doesn’t seem to have any libraries where you can get a card regardless of where in the state you live. I thought Seattle would offer something like the Philly library, but nope- you have to be a resident of the area. Your best bet is, again, to check out the “need a card” section on the Washington Anytime Library Overdrive page.
While many WV libraries say they are open to residents from anywhere in the state, I’m having a hard time finding one with an easy online application. It seems like those with online applications are only open to specific residents, while those open to all require in-person registration. Here’s the WV Reads Overdrive link, that may help you out. Sorry! I really did look!
The Waterford Public Library is another option, and they have Overdrive. They’re open to all WI residents except for Milwaukee County. If you do live in Milwaukee, here’s where to apply for your free library card.
It looks like all of Wyoming’s libraries have local residency requirements. Your best bet is to check the Virtual Library of Wyoming on Overdrive to find one near you.
Why It’s Smart to Have More Than One Library Card
A couple of years ago, I was looking for a book on Overdrive and my local library didn’t offer it. See, every library has its own Overdrive stock. Just like physical books, they buy X amount of digital copies of a book, each of which can only be checked out by one person at a time.
If you want to read, say, the new Stephen King book and your library’s Overdrive only has three e-copies, only three patrons at a time can check out that title. You’ll have to wait for someone to finish reading their copy and return it before you can borrow it.
So, having more than one library card means you have access to more than one Overdrive collection. Not only doe that maximize your chances of actually getting to borrow a recent best-seller sometime this century, it also increases your odds of finding more obscure titles. 😀
Tips & Recommendations
You don’t necessarily need anything beyond your PC (or smartphone) to use Overdrive and other digital resources once you get your free library card. Still, I do have some recommendations for apps and whatnot that makes reading your borrowed ebooks more enjoyable.
FYI, I used affiliate links in this section. If you buy anything through them, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Download your Overdrive library books via Amazon
First, if you have an Amazon account, I highly recommend using the “Read Now with Kindle” option available after you borrow a book. I am pretty sure you don’t need Prime, but you do need the Kindle app (it’s free and available for Windows, iOS, and Android devices). If you need help with this, Overdrive offers instructions here.
Invest in a Kindle Fire
If you’re planning to read a ton of ebooks, I HIGHLY recommend investing in a Kindle Fire. The Fire HD 8 is good if you want something that’s roughly the size of a trade paperback. I prefer the Fire HD 10 (pictured above and below) because I use it for streaming movies and TV shows, too.
FYI, Amazon devices go on sale constantly, so if the full price is too steep for your budget, just wait like a week for the next sale.
- 10.1" 1080p full HD display; 32 or 64 GB of internal storage (add up to 512 GB with microSD)
- Now 30% faster thanks to the new 2.0 GHz octa-core processor and 2 GB of RAM
- Longer battery life—Up to 12 hours of reading, browsing the web, watching video, and listening to music
- Hands-free with Alexa, including on/off toggle
- 2 MP front and rear-facing cameras with 720p HD video recording
- Stay on track – Check email, make video calls, update shopping lists, and set reminders. Use your favorite apps like Zoom, Outlook, and OneNote
- Now with USB-C and faster charging. Includes a USB-C cable & 9W power adapter in the box
- 1-year limited warranty
- Enjoy your favorite apps like Netflix, Facebook, Hulu, Instagram, TikTok, and more through Amazon’s Appstore (Google Play not supported)
- Picture-in-Picture viewing with Netflix, STARZ, Pinterest, MLB At Bat and more
Here are some of the frequently asked questions I came across while researching this post:
Is it legal to have more than one library card?
Yes, it’s perfectly legal. Just make sure you follow residency requirements for each library. In other words, don’t lie about your residence to get a card. THAT is NOT legal.
Do you need a library card for Overdrive?
Yes, you need at least one library card to borrow books through Overdrive. You can add multiple cards to your account. Every library (or consortium of libraries) has their own collection on Libby, so it’s worth getting more than one.
Do you need an internet connection to read Overdrive books?
While you need an internet connection to log in, browse, and check out books, once you download them you can read them offline. I recommend downloading them through Amazon (see above for how to do it).
What is Libby?
Libby is Overdrive’s app and what you’ll actually use to browse & borrow books. I It’s available on Google Play, the App Store, and as a browser-based app.
Which is better: Libby or Overdrive?
That’s a subjective question. In my opinion, Overdrive is MUCH easier to use, especially on a desktop or laptop browser. Both give you access to the same content. If you find it on Libby, you’ll find it on Overdrive, and vice-versa.
Is Overdrive totally free to use?
Yes, because it’s paid for by your library (which is why each library has its own selection).
How can I find other free libraries in my state?
If you didn’t find what you need above, try searching “free library card online in [insert your town/city/state here]. Example, I would search “free library card online in Pennsylvania.” Another tip: search your state (or city) + Overdrive. Example, “Pennsylvania Overdrive,” or “Philadelphia Overdrive.” Those are the two main search phrases I used to research my list.
Jeepers, this post took me like 10 hours to research and write! I think the only post that took longer was my Around the World in 80 Books post (yes, that was a shameless plug for that post! I sure hope at least one person finds it useful! I’d be eternally grateful if you shared it. 🙂
If you know of any libraries that are open to all residents of your state that I missed (especially for the states where I didn’t find any), please let me know. You can leave a comment (they’re being moderated due to a massive influx of spam comments), so give me a few days to approve it if you haven’t commented here before.
Last update on 2021-08-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API