Public libraries with Online Content
May 24, 2007 9:36 PM   Subscribe

Public libraries with Online Content: Residents of Missouri can get a free account at the Kansas City Public Library that will let them access digital databases including the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and downloadable audiobooks. Residents of the Empire State can get a digital library card at the New York Public Library to access a wealth of digital databases. (The rest of us can get a NYPL card for $100.) And the Boston Public Library will give digital access to most of the above, plus JSTOR and (sigh) the Early American Imprints collection of nearly everything printed in North America to 1820. Unfortunately you have to show up at a branch of the BPL and prove Massachusetts residence to get your card. Your turn--what other public libraries offer access to subscription online information databases?
posted by LarryC (31 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
Sweet! Here I've got a BPL card in my wallet, and I had no idea it was good for anything more than the occasional borrowed book... which is less useful now that I'm living several hundred miles from Boston.
posted by killdevil at 9:41 PM on May 24, 2007

This belongs in if you can somehow not phrase it as not chatfilter.
posted by bigmusic at 9:43 PM on May 24, 2007

Awesomez. Just applied for my NYPL card. You rock!
posted by Afroblanco at 10:05 PM on May 24, 2007

The Seattle Public Library has a moderate amount of digital stuff, including things like periodicals and downloadable audiobooks. As does the King County Library System. Some of the data is DRMy, though.
posted by hattifattener at 10:18 PM on May 24, 2007

NCLive offers a nice selection of databases for public library users all across North Carolina. I really liked me some JSTOR and Early American Imprints when I was in grad school.
posted by marxchivist at 10:22 PM on May 24, 2007

Californians, regardless of where they live in the state, can enjoy the dead-tree and digital resources of the San Francisco Public Library; the Los Angeles Public Library has no residency requirements at all! Both cards are FREE, but you must apply in person at a branch of the systems.

The SF Public Library's main branch is centrally located near the Civic Center BART station and a bunch of MUNI lines.

The LA Central Library downtown validates parking, is accessible via Metrolink and the Red Line metro if you're coming in from the 'burbs and don't want to drive, and is a gorgeous building with free, amazing architecture tours and a cute little shop and sunny garden to boot.
posted by mdonley at 10:54 PM on May 24, 2007

I get access through the Brooklyn Public Library.

You calling the Boston Public Library BPL threw me off there for a moment.

Just to clarify, the NYPL serves Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island. Brooklyn and Queens each have their own systems. Both offer different types of access.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:34 PM on May 24, 2007

So who can set up a BugMeNot for digital library cards?
posted by pompomtom at 12:21 AM on May 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

The problem with BPL is that database access is limited to one user at a time. Once, I tried to get on to Jstor and I did eventually. However, it took me an hour or two because someone else was already logged in.
posted by gregb1007 at 12:41 AM on May 25, 2007

By BPL, I meant the Boston Public Library ;-)
posted by gregb1007 at 1:07 AM on May 25, 2007

Berkeley Public Library's online resources include downloadable audiobooks, O'Reilly tech books, full text for a bunch of major newspapers, the Smithsonian Global Sound archive, the Encyclopedia Britannica, Rosetta Stone language lessons, among others.

Library cards are free to any CA resident with a photo id. It sounds like you have to apply in person, but the website doesn't explicitly say so.
posted by zippy at 1:42 AM on May 25, 2007

People who don't live in MA can still get a BPL account if they work in MA.
posted by DU at 4:26 AM on May 25, 2007

Maryland residents have access to Sailor, which provides access to Ebscohost magazines and newspaper articles, among other things. And the Enoch Pratt Free Library site is just fun to explore, for example the digital collections page.

Michigan has the Michigan eLibrary - access to a variety of online databases and eBooks. You need a library card from a participating Michigan library or a Michigan driver's license or state identification number to access the subscription databases.
posted by needled at 5:07 AM on May 25, 2007

Maine databases. You don't need a card.
posted by JanetLand at 5:58 AM on May 25, 2007

Wisconsin residents have BadgerLink.

According to the FAQ, a system of IP (Internet Protocol) detection is used to determine the eligibility of site visitors. The IP address ranges of the majority of the state’s public libraries, public schools, and Internet Service Providers have been registered to provide access to their users.
posted by fellion at 6:07 AM on May 25, 2007

posted by bradth27 at 6:31 AM on May 25, 2007

Some of the larger more progressive libraries want to be more digital and not just a "stack of books" (which is funny, since that is what a library is, right?) - so when you go to the library you basically wait in line to sit in front of a terminal - browsing the stacks is secondary to robotic retrieval mechanisms, interlibrary loan, book digitization, online indexing and databases. The backlash of what a library really is - a physical stack of books for browsing - has already begun. I need to make this into a FPP some day.
posted by stbalbach at 7:43 AM on May 25, 2007

"You are still online, but you are no longer on the Internet. You are in a library" says a columnist in my local paper today.
posted by JanetLand at 9:51 AM on May 25, 2007

I almost made a related post, but couldn't decide whether to go green or grey with it... Would there be interest in a group purchase of library access under a metaFilter group? As in, access to Lexis and the big journals (which aren't available to rural library users); metaFilter's large userbase would have more bargaining power.
posted by acro at 11:07 AM on May 25, 2007

Residents of Kansas can go to any local library and get a Kansas Library Card, which grants access to these databases. I think libraries with online services are more the norm than not. Very few academic libraries require you to be physically present to use resources any longer, and most mid-to-large sized public libraries are the same.

stbalblach, libraries have long been more than stacks of books, and the notion that one would go to a library to "wait in line to sit in front of a terminal" is a fairly shallow assessment of the alternative to browsing a stack of books. I'd suggest some time in a modern library really exploring what they have to offer, both online and on site.
posted by donnagirl at 12:10 PM on May 25, 2007

JanetLand: "Maine databases. You don't need a card."

I think you do need a card, unfortunately. But thank you for bothering to post in the first place.

And Arco, I'm definitely interested.
posted by cashman at 12:16 PM on May 25, 2007

Oops, Acro.
posted by cashman at 12:17 PM on May 25, 2007

The problem with BPL is that database access is limited to one user at a time. Once, I tried to get on to Jstor and I did eventually. However, it took me an hour or two because someone else was already logged in.

Sonuvabitch, that sucks. I just told my wife to make sure we stop at a BPL branch next time we visit Boston so I can get a card, but now I'm not sure it's worth it.
posted by languagehat at 1:08 PM on May 25, 2007

Milwaukee Public Library has downloadable ebooks, access to Thompson Gale 19th century newspapers and plenty of other goodies.
posted by JJ86 at 5:13 PM on May 25, 2007

NYPL card is available not only to residents but also to workers, students, or land owners. Just to clarify.

The Access card, peculiar to the NY research libraries, is available to just about anyone with a pulse. No borrowing privileges, of course, but you will get on site computer access to JSTOR, etc. Indeed, the terminals on your left as you enter the Bill Blass catalogue room are pretty much just sit'n'type. I've never had to wait and I've never been carded.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:25 PM on May 25, 2007

(Oh, and I've never had to wait for someone else to get off JSTOR either. Slowish at times, but never wait an hour slow.)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:28 PM on May 25, 2007

Minnesota offers ELM, the Electronic Library for Minnesota. It rocks.

In fact, wherever you are (unless it's Jackson County, Oregon, which closed its eleven libraries and voted earlier this month to keep them closed) check with your public library - just go to their website and chances are you have a ton of databases at your fingertips.

Not many of them will be available to only one person at a time. If they are, it's because the outfit licensing them charges far more for multiple users. It sucks, but it's a money thing.

Incidentally, a major report released a while ago bemoaned the fact not many people know about the databases libraries offer. Most people only think of books. Not that there's anything wrong with books.
posted by bfister at 10:21 AM on May 26, 2007

Considering how many different databases there are, how painful it is to work through the crap proxies they all use, and how many new ones there are, sometimes the free google search is the best tool.
posted by acro at 11:51 AM on May 26, 2007

Most universities have access to a ton of online databases, with automatic authentication from computers in the library itself. You can also ask the friendly librarian at the information desk what the access password is, and claim you're waiting on money to get a new ID after you lost your old one if they ask for it. The password usually stays the same for an entire semester, so keep trying with different librarians if this doesn't work the first time. You can also ask other students, since they usually don't care if you're also a student or not.

I say all this from the perspective of being a student, not from wandering into random school libraries and seeing if it works, so YMMV.
posted by ElfWord at 9:11 PM on May 28, 2007

Let me clear up a few things about access to research databases at the Boston Public Library. We do indeed offer remote access to Jstor as well as over 100 other vendor-supplied electronic resources. (And even more are available in the library.)

You do need a card to access them from home because we are bound by license agreements with the database vendors. We must to ensure that we provide access to our patrons only. These vendors do need to make sure that they don't put themselves out of business. Without them, no one would be able to access this stuff!

It is very easy to get a new eCard, though, and you do not need to visit one of our branches in person. Just bear these things in mind:
  • You must live in, work in, attend school in, or own property in Massachusetts to receive an eCard.
  • You must be 13 years of age or older to apply online.
  • If you would like to be able to check books out of a BPL location, you must visit a BPL branch and provide proof of your eligibility.
A very few of our more costly electronic resources do have a limit on the number of users that can access them through us at the same time -- three at a time for remote connections to Jstor, for example. But they are available 24 hours a day and cover a wide range of disciplines and interests.

As stbalbach pointed out, libraries are indeed not just about dusty old books anymore. (Have you seen our downloadable audio and video yet?) And it's not just the big urban libraries either. Check out your local public library and see what's going on. You may be surprised.


Scot Colford
Applications Manager
Boston Public Library

posted by scolford at 8:59 AM on May 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

Holy crap, thank you, Scot! I'm... I'm using JSTOR right now! I can hardly believe it! Next time I visit Boston I'll get an actual library card, but this will definitely hold me.
posted by languagehat at 9:16 AM on May 30, 2007

« Older Who needs drugs, when you can just pop in a new...   |   Black hole of Mars Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments