This last Sunday, I went to one of the local public library systems to get my third card. Why three you may ask? It’s actually pretty simple, they have differing collections.
I live in the Northern Virginia area, fondly called the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia, get it?). In this area, most of the public library systems offer reciprocity with each other, even across state lines. I assume (though I’ve never had it confirmed) that the reason for this is that people who live in one state often work in another, and it is sometimes easier, or necessary, to go to the library where you work, rather than at home. But one of the main benefits of this reciprocity is that I get access to all the various parts of the collections of each library system I am a member of. I originally had a library card for Fairfax County, and I kept it when I moved to Alexandria, because I drive right past one of their branches when I go to work.
I actually got my Alexandria card while I still lived in Fairfax, because frankly, Alexandria has a much better selection of DVDs than Fairfax did at the time. I haven’t checked on Fairfax’s DVD collection recently. Most recently, I got an Arlington Library card. I did this because Arlington offers access to Lynda.com, a service I enjoyed when I had it previously, but didn’t keep because I couldn’t afford it. With the Arlington card, I get access to that website, in addition to all of their other services.
In addition to the specific databases, each system also has different books. Let’s say I find a great lesson online that has a specific book in it. If one system doesn’t have it, maybe one of the others does. This is the great thing about reciprocity. Even if I have to drive a little out of my way occasionally, I have access to the materials I need that I don’t have in my own school library, faster than waiting for an ILL from another school. I can also get more digital content, both because of the different catalogs, and because I can often avoid going on a hold list for digital content thanks to the differences.
While I realize that not everyone lives in an area where there are multiple library systems that offer reciprocity like this, I would encourage everyone to look at their options with local library systems, and their local state library, to see what features they might be missing out on.