By Heidi Rand

While public library branches are closed and you’re following California’s order to stay home other than for essential needs, your library card is the key to a whole universe of free ebooks, newspapers, entertainment, reference and educational materials, and much more!

If you’ve already got a library card, great! We’ve got ways you can take advantage of your library and start exploring the worlds that await you without leaving home. No card? No worries – you can get one online at many libraries! You can even get cards at multiple libraries, including libraries located in places where you don’t live.

A note about what you’ll find below: some libraries may offer cards online that we were unable to find, and more libraries are adding more services every day. We encourage you to do a bit of sleuthing!

Ready to start exploring?

Get a library card online

Don’t have a library card? You can get a card by signing up at these libraries’ websites:

Different libraries have different requirements; for example, you may or may not have to live in the city or town where the library is located, and you’ll have access to different items at different libraries. Libraries also have varying requirements for who can get an e-card with unlimited access; they may ask for your birth date (guardians might need to complete applications for children under a certain age), address, phone number, or other info.

Use your library card

When library branches were open, you could get some things online, but you had to go into a branch to get a card that would give you access to many more resources. During closures, most libraries are offering more and more online. Every library’s offerings differ, but you’ll commonly find eBooks and eAudiobooks through OverDrive or the Libby App; newspapers and magazines; movies and music. For people with children, most libraries offer a wealth of learning resources and content for homeschooling or entertainment. Some libraries even offer online events! What will you find?

Contra Costa County and Alameda County are the largest public library systems in the Indivisible East Bay area. Here’s Contra Costa’s list of online resources, and here’s Alameda’s list of eResources.

What else?

Not sure what libraries there are? Here’s a great list of libraries, some you may never have even heard of. Or search for “public library” and your county, city, or town. Hot tip: librarians LOVE to be helpful! Can’t figure out which libraries you can become a member of online, and what you’ll have access to? Find one in your area that offers the option to ask a question by email or chat, let them know where you live, and ask them to help you find out!

And you can still get physical books at your local independent bookstore! It’s more important now than ever to support them, order online and they’ll ship to your door. Or buy a gift certificate to give to someone, or to use later. Check out

Illustration by Ty McClarty, Creative Commons Zero – CC0 license

Heidi Rand fights the evil empire with skills gained as a librarian and Ninth Circuit staff attorney, using words to resist, and to inform and inspire others to take action. She also wields a mean camera and knitting needles, though not at the same time.




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