(UPDATE 4 April 2019): Yorba Linda Public Library has reported that their ecard service is temporarily down, and they do not yet have an ETA on when it will be fixed. Please do not contact the library asking about this. They will update me when it is working again. Thank you.
Are you a genealogist who resides in California? Then you are eligible to apply for a library eCard from the Yorba Linda Public Library (YLPL) in Orange County, California. YLPL is one of my local libraries, and their eCard is a relatively unknown super convenient gem for genealogists, other researchers, and lifelong learners.
What is a Library eCard?
An eCard – sometimes called a virtual card – is a library card that gets you access to many of the digital services and collections offered by the participating public library, without having to go into the library to apply for the card. Some libraries – including YLPL – allow immediate access. You apply online with a valid email address, and receive login credentials right away that allow you to immediately start using its digital collections.
Library eCards may not be used to check out physical materials. To do that, you have to visit the relevant library and convert your eCard into a regular library card.
YLPL is a city library, yet it makes its eCard available for free to all California residents, not just city residents.
(UPDATE 15 February 2019): YLPL’s website says that its eCard is available to California residents. However, a reader pointed out that the city drop down list on the eCard application form only includes Southern California cities. I do see some Northern California cities on the list, such as Sacramento and San Jose. I also see some Central California cities like Bakersfield and Clovis included, but others like Santa Barbara are not.
A second reader said that they emailed the library asking them to add their California town to the list, and the library said they would. On the web form, that reader used the closest city listed, and their actual zip code, which still allowed them to sign up for the eCard.
It is very likely that for design and usability purposes, YLPL initially only populated the eCard registration form with Southern California cities, assuming that would be their main demographic draw. Perhaps as others have requested that Northern and Central California cities and towns be added, the library added those too. Their library card policy clearly states this is open to California residents.
Yorba Linda was one of the first public libraries that caught my radar a few years ago by offering an eCard option. Since that time I have seem many more public libraries around the country start to offer this option. However, most libraries only make eCards available to their target user base – their own residents. This is undoubtably due to funding restrictions.
YLPL Items of Interest
A YLPL eCard provides free remote access to an extensive list of digital services and collections, however I want to highlight a few that are particularly relevant to genealogists.
Fold3 Library Edition
Fold3 Library Edition is the institution-licensed version of Fold 3, and is distributed by ProQuest. Unlike Ancestry Library Edition, Fold3 Library Edition allows remote access.
If you are not familiar with Fold3, it is a digital repository owned by Ancestry, specializing in U.S. military records going back to the Revolutionary War. However, it also includes collections such as select U.S. federal censuses, city directories, vital records, naturalization records, and collections specific to African Americans and Native Americans.
An individual subscription costs $79.95 per year. You can get this for free through Yorba Linda Public Library.
Lynda.com is an online learning service that provides an excellent list of current on-demand self-paced video tutorials taught by industry experts on a large variety of topics relevant to genealogists (including professionals) and society volunteers: “…business, software, technology and creative skills.”1 It is owned by LinkedIn.
I regularly consult Lynda.com courses at least a couple times a week, for topics that are new to me, for which I need a refresher, or that have evolved since I initially studied that topic. Examples include: web development and design, accessibility, marketing, and graphic design. Because the university I work for provides Lynda.com access to faculty, staff, and students, I require that my student assistants and interns watch select Lynda.com courses as part of their professional development.
Not a lot of public libraries offer access to Lynda.com yet, so you want to take advantage of those libraries that do. Lynda.com subscriptions are much more common at universities and large corporations. An individual subscription costs $24.99 per month. You can get this for free through Yorba Linda Public Library.
Rosetta Stone is an online subscription-based language learning program that teaches over 25 languages. It offers self-paced lessons that provide immediate feedback and scoring, and allow the student to work up to harder levels.
I have used Rosetta Stone for several years to get better at Spanish for my research and my travels. I studied Spanish in high school, and then for a few years in college, but did not regularly use it, so I lost much of it. As I started working more with Spanish-language records, traveling more to Spanish-speaking countries, and just wanting to connect more with my heritage, I needed to get back into regularly learning and practicing Spanish. Rosetta Stone is a great convenient fit for my busy life.
Until about one year ago, I paid for a personal 2-year subscription. Now I use YLPL’s Rosetta Stone subscription for free. An individual subscription costs $35.97 for 3 months or $119.88 for 12 months. You can get this for free through Yorba Linda Public Library.
Other Libraries To Look Into
The libraries included in this list make eCards available to people outside of their library jurisdiction. If a city library, to individuals outside their city, and if a county library, to residents outside their county.
The databases types and titles offered varies by library. Follow the links below to learn more about what digital collections and databases are available with eCard access, and to apply for an eCard.
- Boston Public Library (Massachusetts): Does not indicate for how long the card is valid, other than it does expire. “eCards are available to anyone who lives, resides part-time to attend school, owns property, or works in Massachusetts.”
- Cleveland Public Library (Ohio): Does not indicate for how long the card is valid. Available to anyone who resides, owns property, attends school, or works in Ohio.
- Lincoln Library (Illinois): Free for residents; $90 for non-residents. Valid for 1 year.
- Mesquite Public Library (Texas): Available to Texas residents. Valid for 3 years.
To find out if a library in a geographic area of interest to you makes eCards available to non-residents, do a search for something like “library statename ecard” (example: texas library ecard) and review the listing descriptions. You might still have to visit the library website to get that information.
If you are aware of other public libraries that offer eCards to individuals outside of their jurisdiction base, and digital collections of particular use to genealogists, please use the comment box below to let me know.