To me, walking into a library is like returning to my childhood home, familiar and welcoming. However, I completely understand that if libraries are foreign to you, navigating a library might seem intimidating.
So here’s a short guide to get you started…
Google search: public library [your zip code]
If you are lucky, this will return multiple results (meaning you have several libraries geographically available to you!). For more rural areas, you might get just one result. Once you’ve identified which library is most convenient for you, explore their website to find the address and hours of that location. Note: it’s not uncommon for a library to have different hours during different times the year (i.e. summer hours).
Many library websites include a page called “Services” which will likely list the process for obtaining a library card. While processes vary from library to library, most require that you are a resident of the state or city/county/township where the library is located to be eligible for a library card.
Getting a library card for your local library is always FREE!! However, replacement cards may incur a fee.
Some, but not all, libraries offer a visitor or non-resident library card for a set fee.
To apply for a library card, be sure to bring a valid photo ID (state driver’s license is perfect) and proof of residency.
Proof of residency is just a document that verifies your current address (this can be a recent utility bill, a voter registration card, a recent pay stub with your name and address, etc.). Basically, an official piece of mail (not a handwritten letter from your Grandma) that was sent to you at your current address in the last month.
Most libraries also have an application to fill out. Do not be intimidated by this terminology! If you meet the criteria for residency and have the proper documentation, you will be issued a library card! Basically, the application gets your contact information (including an email address so you can access library resources via the Internet) and confirms you agree to their policies (accepting responsibility for damage to borrowed materials, etc.).
In most cases, if you have the appropriate documents, you can get your library card on the spot!
Be sure to ask for information from the librarian on how to access online resources. You may have to set a pin/password but usually, they make your web pin/password the last four digits of your phone number by default.
Grab a copy of the library policies so you are aware of how many materials you can check out for what period of time and any late fees that will be incurred.