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San Antonio Public Library Offers Free Access to Digital Reading. Here's How to Get Started.


  • Siggi Ragnar
A motherlode of reading material is available for free from the San Antonio Public Library — and you don't need to leave the house to access it.

The content is available via the SAPL's OverDrive collection, which mobile users can access through the Libby app, an award-winning, one-tap digital reading tool used by thousands of public libraries.

And we're not just talking e-books and audiobooks but magazines, online tutoring programs, auto repair manuals and school resources — all for free.

The virtual access adds convenience as people hunker down during the pandemic, but Library Services Administrator Ron Suszek told the Current it's not new.

"Even before the pandemic, our digital usage was one of the fastest growing segments of our collection," he said.

Even so, there's been an uptick in users while some of the library's physical collections remain unavailable.

"We were able to shift some of our budget to bolster that collection because of the user demand that was placed on it during the pandemic," Suszek said.

Libby app users can send downloaded resources directly to their Kindle. Also, there are no late fees, since titles automatically expire at the end of their lending period.

Getting a Card

Only one thing stands in the way of residents diving directly into SAPL's digital collections: a library card.

With local public libraries only offering curbside services during the current phase of their reopening plan, residents now have two options for registering for one.

The first is by going through OverDrive, either through the Libby app or the web. The person's identity is verified via a billing address or a cell phone. Once authenticated, users can set up an account to download materials.

The other is through the public library website, where users are prompted to fill out a pre-registration form for a temporary card.

Under normal circumstances, there's a secondary step. To receive a permeant, physical card, users are expected to stop by a local library within 90 days to present a photo ID and proof of their current address.

While local libraries have begun using a contactless, curbside method of accepting IDs to complete the registrations, Suszek said SAPL currently isn't requiring that final step.

"During the pandemic, we are not expiring temporary library cards if people aren't able to come into a physical location," he said.

Once users acquire a temporary card, they can instantly browse SAPL's digital collection, borrow books and start listening and reading for free.

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