Take a Trip to Your Virtual Library

Reader Contribution by Jaime Netzer

Researching in pajamas just got easier. While your public library card has always given you access to physical copies of books, CDs and journals, there was a catch: You had to get to a library.

Now, many states have started online library card programs, usually called state or virtual library cards. These cards allow the holder to access troves of online information gathered from public libraries all across the state, without leaving the comfort of home. The Iowa state library card program, for example, allows holders to access a broad range of information: newspaper, television and radio transcripts, articles from regional and national business publications, and full text articles in over 2,000 scholarly journals. Those journal articles are compiled and sorted into online academic databases, so searching for a specific topic in a database is easier and yields more filtered results than from a plain old Google search.

The Alabama program lists an impressive 96 databases available to card holders. Many of the databases are academic in nature, but the list also includes three databases specifically for children and one called ‘Lifetime Readings,’ a compilation of introductions to more than 130 literary classics that should be read over a lifetime.

Applying for a card is usually as simple as filling out an online registration form, though some states require proof of identification.

For would-be researchers living in states without state library programs, the state of New York offers a state library card to non-residents for a $100 annual fee. So take your shoes off, stay in, do a little internet scouring and click your way to your own state virtual library card.