As of July 15th, the Brooklyn Public Library has discontinued applications for its fee-based out-of-state library card. BPL offered a card for $50 per year. According to the library’s website:
As of July 15, 2022, Brooklyn Public Library is no longer offering its fee-based out-of-state library card. Our priority remains serving Brooklynites and assuring that they can access the materials they need in a timely manner. BPL Library cards remain free for anyone who lives, works, pays property taxes or attends school in New York State. Existing out-of-state accounts will remain active until their expiration date and will not be renewable.
Brooklyn is the second large library to curtail out-of-state access. The Free Library of Philadelphia stopped offering fee cards in November of 2019. Brooklyn’s reasons mirror Philadelphia’s: Focusing on serving their direct service area and assuring that local patrons have priority access. The concern about serving local residents does make sense. Wait times for books have gotten much, much longer, especial for popular material and new releases. Publishers’ prices and terms for ebooks and audiobooks have gotten both more restrictive and more expensive and factor into this issue. Remember that libraries are funded by local tax dollars, so priority access for local patrons is important to library funding.
Existing BPL card cardholders can still borrow materials, but when those cards expire, they will not be renewed.
Unlike the Free Library of Philadelphia, the Brooklyn Public Library did not notify its fee card patrons via email of the change. I have a card at BPL and only found out via an online forum. Most out-of-state patrons were very upset, as many patrons who use an out-of-area library card live in communities that have very small ebook collections (compared to BPL, which offers over 194,000 digital books in their collection). Lack of choice in library materials is a huge problem that hits rural areas especially hard and highlights the need for a National Digital Library to service areas which do not have a robust library system.
You can check this article on Mobileread for a list of free and fee-card based libraries. (Please be sure to check each library’s website for the latest information on getting a card.)
To understand the issues involved with licensing library ebooks, please check out the American Library Association’s eBooksForAll site for more information.