How Libraries Are Expanding Accessibility

How libraries are expanding accessibility

In the U.S., we are fortunate to have a large system of public libraries that provide books, videos, educational materials, and Internet.  The hope is that libraries will provide equal access and opportunities to all.  However, the effort to truly provide equal access is ongoing, and many libraries have become creative in finding ways to bring resources to those who may not be able to walk in to their local library.  Below are some ways that libraries are using to expand access.  If you can’t make it into your library, it’s worth asking about what other services they provide.

Library Branches

Many libraries maintain separate buildings throughout the city so that individuals who live in underprivileged neighborhoods or who live a long distance from the main library can still check out materials.  Though these branches may be smaller, they provide all the services of a regular library and can have materials shipped from the main branch.  Surprisingly, however, I have found that inhabitants of a city sometimes remain unaware that their library maintains branches.

Library Cards for the Homeless

Typically an individual has to provide an address in order to receive a library card.  This is because libraries are maintained by taxpayer dollars.  Individuals who live in cities that do not contribute to the maintenance of the library are supposed to get a library card from their home library.  They can then get a card from another library.  This system, however, poses difficulties for those who do not have an address.  Individuals living in safe houses or in shelters can provide documentation showing this and receive a library card this way.

Library Cards for Businesses

Some people live in one city but work in another.  Some libraries offer cards to employees of local businesses.  So check to see if this is a service available to you and if your business is willing to participate.

The Bookmobile

The Bookmobile brings library books to those who, for whatever reason, cannot make it to the library.  Bookmobiles typically rotate their collections, but they can also take requests for specific materials.  You may even be able to participate in the yearly summer reading program through the Bookmobile.

School Outreach

Librarians schedule school visits in order to encourage literacy, explain what the library offers, and to begin the library registration process.  Some students may have parents who cannot go to the library with them in order to show their proof of residency. Signing up through the school means that the school has already verified their residency.  The student can then show up to the library themselves, with their forms, in order to obtain a card and check out materials.

Pop-Up Libraries

Librarians often do community outreach, leading storytimes or making crafts at various organizations or community festivals.  In these cases, they may talk about library services and programs or they may even bring some books for people to take, in the spirit of the Little Free Library. These pop-up libraries  provide access to books to those who may not be able to walk or drive to the library itself.

Little Free Libraries

Some libraries also maintain Little Free Libraries, allowing people to take or leave a book throughout the city.  This system can benefit those who cannot make it to the library or who prefer to take a book without worrying about having to return it.


Libraries may run kiosks, which are basically vending machines for books.  They can be placed around the city so people can check out books at various locations.

Homebound Services

If you cannot leave your home to go the library to check out or return books, you can inquire to see if your library offers homebound services.  Some libraries have volunteers who bring books to your door, while others have experimented with mailing materials.


E-books are ideal for those who cannot make it to the library to check out or return books.  If you have a laptop or an e-reader, you can check out books from home.  The book then automatically returns itself when the loan expires, so you don’t have to worry about overdue fees.

How is your library getting creative to expand accessibility?

18 thoughts on “How Libraries Are Expanding Accessibility

  1. (Danielle) Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    As always, much love for libraries and all of the wonderful post you offer about them! I love how they are really expanding to encompass all. Here the bookmobiles and school outreaches are going strong. We also have a surprisingly large ebook selection. I know that they have been working on updating the system to accommodate those without permanent addresses, but I am not entirely sure how it works here. It warms my heart though, as we do sadly have a large homeless community.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I’ve found that, oddly enough, my library offers tons of services, but most people don’t seem to be aware of them. That is, if someone were homeless, I am not sure they would know what to do about getting a card and I am also not sure everyone would ask. I really feel that libraries could, in many cases, do a better job marketing their services instead of assuming patrons know as much about them as the workers do!

      Liked by 1 person

      • (Danielle) Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

        I think we actually have some solid marketing here, but can see how it would not reach some communities as easily. There is a lot happening online, in schools and even around local stores. But this is not always going to target those who could really benefit from the services. So I see what you mean!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. scribblesandknots says:

    Libraries often don’t just expand access to books – their collections of other media, like DVDs and streaming video, are increasingly impressive as well. Some even have things like 3D printers on site, expanding community access to commercially and academically vital technologies. My local branch also has a dedicated tech help volunteer – he runs regular classes about how to use the library’s technology, personal computing, and even popular electronics for kids and teenagers around the holidays. I love libraries!


    • Krysta says:

      Very true! We’re celebrating National Library Week with several posts and I believe I mention movie streaming and other services in some of them. 😀


  3. Elley says:

    I especially appreciate the e-resources! I live in a suburb and my county library system doesn’t have as wide of a digital selection as the county library system for the inner city. I really appreciate that I was able to link up my account to the larger system and am able to request ebook and digital audiobook downloads from both systems. Now if my hold requests would just come through faster… 😉


    • Krysta says:

      Yes, the hold list can be painfully long sometimes! Then, for some reason, they usually come in all at once and I find myself buried in books.


  4. Grab the Lapels says:

    My library has access to both Hoopla and Over Drive, which allow people to download digital and audio books. At a big event last year, they had someone sign an entire lecture (though they didn’t do it this year). And I’ve noticed more signs and assistance in Spanish.


  5. Sammie says:

    Oh, I love this post! Spreading some much-needed awareness. 🙂 Our library, as tiny as it is, actually does a lot, but I feel like they don’t advertise it as much and people don’t know to ask. I’m always surprised. It wasn’t until just a couple months ago that I realized they had e-book lending through Overdrive. They don’t advertise it anywhere except their website as a random link, basically. They’ve got a bookmobile to go out to people’s houses, too, but no real information about it easily accessible except what area it’ll be in on what day. I think my library does outreach well, it just doesn’t advertise it well so people don’t really know what’s available. 🙂


    • Krysta says:

      I’ve been going to the library my entire life and I’m still discovering things about it that I didn’t know! I don’t think this should be the case! We do have a bookmobile, as well, but I don’t know how popular it is. I certainly don’t know where it stops, though I suppose I could find that information online. And I’m sure some people don’t use it because they don’t realize you can request certain books to go on it and be ready for your stop. They probably think that what’s on the bookmobile is all you get!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sammie says:

        Well, I didn’t know you could request certain books to go on it, either, so I would believe that. And a lot of people around here are older and therefore don’t use the Internet, so I imagine that makes finding information about library services that much harder. Ours even has a VA rep once a month, which my grandfather didn’t realize, despite living here for 10 years, until I mentioned it to him because I saw it on the calendar.

        Liked by 1 person

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