Non-resident students still able to access public libraries with proof of residence

Lauren Florence

Non-residents of Austin will have to pay a fee to obtain a public library card after the Austin Public Library instituted a non-resident fee Thursday.

Between 2008 and 2011, state funding had allowed Austin Public Library to waive the fee for people who live outside of Austin. Non-resident students can still receive a public library card if they bring in proof of residence, such as a lease, new insurance or a utility bill. Non-resident library cards will cost visitors $120 annually or $35 quarterly for full access to all physical materials and the virtual library.

The priority of books and other library resources should go to Austin residents, according to Toni Grasso, Austin Public Library Office of Programs and Partnerships administrative manager. Grasso said even people from countries such as France have Austin Public Library cards since Austin is such an international city.

“We want the priority [for Austin Public Library access] to go to Austin residents,” Grasso said.

Most libraries charge a non-resident fee, Grasso said, especially as Austin’s virtual library has hosted more content and become accessible on smartphones since 2009, when the virtual library had just opened.

Grasso said computers and facilities at the city’s public libraries will continue to be free for anyone that wants to come to the library to use them.

Zachary Stone, Plan II senior and president of the TC 60 book club, said he is in favor of UT students getting books for free from the public library, especially if they tacitly live here like many students and don’t officially claim residency in their hometown. Stone said, however, as a student, he’s never felt the need to go to the public library.

“I’ve never been to the Austin Public Library, and the members of my book club have never been to the Austin Public Library — at least not significantly,” Stone said. “I mean, the Perry-Castañeda Library is modeled after the Library of Congress, so I’ve never felt the need. If I did, I guess I would be frustrated that that fee was there.”

Non-residents can also apply for a free, limited access TexShare Card by presenting a valid photo ID and proof of residence. TexShare cardholders can only check out a maximum of 10 physical materials at a time and don’t have remote access to online databases or virtual library resources.

For Texas residents who aren’t affiliated with UT, there is also the option of gaining borrowing privileges through University Libraries by showing proof of Texas residency and a $100 annual fee, according to the University Libraries website.

Natalie Cormier, English junior and member of the In Between the Lines book club, said she has used the public library on several occasions to check out books UT libraries don’t have. Cormier said while there is a decline in the popularity of books, libraries offer not only literature but also safe places for people to grow and learn.

“As a lover of literature, it saddens me that libraries are becoming more inaccessible,” Cormier said “‘Public’ is no longer public, it is selective. Austin public libraries offer other resources that the University does not and will not offer.”

Correction: Students who are not originally from Austin can obtain a library card with proof of Austin residency. Additionally, state funding allowed the public libraries to waive non-resident fees between 2008 and 2011, not between 2009 and the present date, as was previously stated.