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How do Public Libraries in America work? Free membership? Movies?

Library…A good place to Study or Sleep 😉 …I think both 🙂  Some of you, who plan to come to US for work or as a student might be wondering how public libraries in US work. Can we free get membership, etc?  What kind of services do libraries provide?  Let me share you few thoughts on public libraries.

How are Public Libraries Connected? County based ? Exchange ?

Every city, small town, or village will have a public library. Usually, all the libraries in a county are connected. All the public libraries in a county share common Library Catalog and system. They not only share the catalog, but you can request books from other county libraries too. Let’s say you go to another library in that county, you do not need to get another membership card…you can just borrow the books from there too.  Also, they are funded primarily by state tax payers money.

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Free Membership for Public Libraries? Requirements?

Obviously, it is a public library and the membership is free!  There are certain requirements though…You have to be a resident of that county. They ask you for proof of your residency in that country or city. How can you prove that? There are few ways, best is your Driver’s license or State ID issued with address of the city or county where the library is situated. If you have just moved to that place, then you can take your old Driving license or state ID and take a Postal mail that was sent to your address or any utility bill or Rental lease agreement, etc to prove that you are a resident. That’s it, once they verify, you get a library card. Do you know how long this takes ? 5 Minutes. If you have your ID, you should have your library card in 5 minutes. One more reason to get your State ID if on F1 or H1B visa

What can you rent ? How many books ?  Movies ? Music ?

Public libraries have so much stuff that we sometimes do not find in University libraries. For instance, sometimes you may not find many books on subjects like Learn Spanish , Guitar, Cooking, etc in University libraries…But public libraries have tons of these stuff.  You can rent pretty much most of the stuff in Library except reference material.  Most of the times you can rent as many as 25 to 50 books based on the library and the policies.  You can rent movies in DVD or VHS format, there may be some restrictions on DVDs like return in a week and 10 to 20 movies or so… As far as music, there are some limitations too. Overall, it depends  on the library.

Renewing Books ? Returning  ? Fines ? Care of Books .

Renewing books can be done online, no hassle. You can call them and renew too. You have to return on time otherwise you will get fines.  If there is a valid reason and you have good explanation, they may waive fines.   Do NOT try to misuse the books by underlining, highlighting, tearing pages off, etc. It is NOT professional. NO one does that kind of stuff over here in US and you can get in big trouble if you do that stuff…everything is tracked !  If you get fine, you better pay it..otherwise you will get a check to home at end of year….never try to skip and run away, in US system might be connected, you may be tracked…You do not want to break rules in US, you will be in trouble.

Other Library services ?

There are so many other services that public libraries provide like Conference rooms for studying ( me and my class team in MBA used to always study in public libraries), they provide many programs for Kids (so many books and programs for kids), sometimes  they do  free tax services, there are many mentoring programs, they have speaker series, book writes come and sign books, etc… So many services that you can never even think of.

Overall, Public libraries have so many resources; you should use them for your personal development and fun. I go to public libraries all the time for getting books and studying.

Did I miss anything about public libraries? Any more thoughts ?


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  1. Libraries only purchase books, audio & digital titles from certain sources. They also do not purchase every title in a series or independent authors.
    Instead of shelving a percentage donations, they sell all of them, claiming their is a shelving/process fee. Libraries are a great place to go but they aren’t very smart.

  2. Hello,

    Do you have any knowledge of a rulebook for public libraries or an academic source I can quote regarding these aspects of US public libraries?

    Thank you!

  3. U said all public library are connected that’s means there are all registered but my question is that under what firm are they registered in case someone needs details about them u can ve it and hw to accesse these details from them

  4. please sir /madam i wanted to get the book in your library intilted (who is who:) please up date me how i can get that book in dhkl uganda or call me on 256772481061 many thanks

  5. Hi Kumar

    You almost entice me to emigrate to US! If I was young, I’d have certainly done so. Now, I can’t stand the winter there. I wish in my younger days such treasure of knowledge about the U.S. were available at the click of a button

  6. You can usually borrow materials for 1-3 weeks (depends on type: book, movie, magazine, etc.).

    Reference librarians are usually available to help you find materials on a particular subject, if its not in that specific library, they can usually order it from another library.


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