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A Boston Library card: How to get one, and what it can do for you

September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month and if you're new to Boston, here's what a BPL card gets you here.
boston public library
The Boston Public Library's Central location. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Allston Christmas is over and Boston’s new residents are starting to settle in. If you’re new to the city, there’s a lot to take care of when you first arrive, but here’s one more thing to add to your list: sign up for a library card.

September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month, which coincides well in Boston with the influx of new residents. Whether you’re a student or not, a library card can open up resources across the city.

And if you think libraries are a relic from the past, think again. The Boston Public Library has actually seen an increase in both visitors and new cardholders, BPL spokeswoman Rosemary Lavery said.

“With the huge numbers of new residents, students, and visitors combined and an ever-growing local population, we are continually inviting people to discover and rediscover the library and all we have to offer in Copley Square and across the city,” BPL President David Leonard added in an email.

The BPL’s fiscal years run from July 1 to June 30, and in the 2017 fiscal year, more than 75,600 new library cards were issued to adults alone (teens accounted for 1,218 new cards and children for 6,079). That’s up from 66,700 new adult cards in 2016.

In 2016, BPL’s Central Library and other branches had about 3.4 million visitors. In 2017, more than 3.7 million people took a trip to the libraries.

Some of that may be because of the Central Library’s recent renovations, Lavery said, but the case for libraries is still compelling.

Public libraries just earned a nod from the Pew Research Center, which released a report Aug. 30 that found that most Americans, especially Millennials, say that libraries can help them find reliable and trustworthy information amidst worries that fake news is spreading confusion across the country.

About eight in 10 adults feel that public libraries help them find information that is trustworthy and reliable, and 76 percent of adults say that libraries help them learn new things, according to Pew.

At BPL branches, a library card certainly grants you access to reference material, print sources and librarians who can answer reference questions, but there’s also a plethora of digital options.

With a card, you can download e-books, including Kindle titles, and audio books from the BPL’s catalog. Watch this tutorial to learn how, so you don’t even need to visit a branch in person to get informed.

Aside from books, you can also read digital magazines and borrow and stream music, movies and television shows for your tablet, smartphone or laptop.

A card allows for more than just consuming media, as well. BPL offers free access to online tools to help you learn a language, like Powerspeak and Mango. There’s even one geared toward children so your whole family can learn a new language together.

Another idea for a family event or for learning about your new city? A museum trip. With a BPL card, you can get museum passes for everything from the Boston Children’s Museum, the MFA, the Museum and Science to the New England Aquarium, the Massachusetts Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries, Boston by Foot tours and more.

“Anyone who lives, works, or goes to school in Massachusetts can have a Boston Public Library card,” Leonard said. “Come check us out!”

To get a Boston Public Library card, you can apply at any branch location or register for an eCard here.

 
 
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