How to Get a Library Card After July 1

Don't live within the boundaries of the county library system? Starting today, libraries such as Milpitas will charge a $80 annual card fee for patrons living in, for example, San Jose or Fremont.

For many patrons of the —and any of the seven other libraries in the Santa Clara County Library system—things will be changing, big-time, on July 1.

An $80 library card fee—with certain exceptions—goes into effect Friday for non-residents of the district who want to check out materials from the county libraries.

The library board voted to charge a fee for the first time in the history of the library district on April 28 due to state budget cuts.

The state reimburses the county library system for items checked out by patrons who live outside of the service area. But the money had dwindled to about 15 cents per item when the actual cost is about $3 per item, according to Milpitas Community Librarian Linda Arbaugh.

"My hope is that this is a temporary situation, and that in a couple of years the state will once again be able to reimburse us for the services we provide to non-district residents," Arbaugh wrote in an email.

About 47 percent of patrons who use the Milpitas Public Library don't live in the city, according to Arbaugh. About a quarter reside in San Jose, and slightly more than a fifth are from Fremont.

On the first day of the new card policy, within the first four hours of opening, about two dozen people had purchased cards. And about the same number of patrons have canceled their cards, according to Arbaugh.

She said she had scheduled additional clerks for the weekend to accommodate the selling and canceling of cards as well as to field questions.

Any member of the public can participate in the library programs, use its study rooms and look at books and materials. But they cannot check out books or use the computers without purchasing an annual library card. 

"We had one patron who was surprised when his card no longer allowed him access to the Internet computers," she wrote. "When he learned what was happening, he went downstairs and purchased a card and then went back up and got right on."


Things to know about the Santa Clara County Library card:

• Residents of the district, who live or own property in Milpitas, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill or Saratoga are not affected. Residents of unincorporated areas of the county are also not affected.

  who attend schools whose districts overlap with the boundaries of the county library district are eligible for a free, limited use card on an annual basis. This covers preschool through 12th grade. The library has published a list of eligible schools or school districts. The list contains mostly public schools, but students of private schools and charter schools may be eligible. 

• The $80 non-resident card is good one year from date of purchase. It works out to less than $7.00 a month, or about 22 cents a day. 

• Non-residents who want to stretch their budget to pay for a $80 card may use one card for the entire household. One card can borrow up to 100 items at a time. Consideration should be paid to who will be using the card, however. "If they want to use the children's computers for example, they would need to put it in the child's name," said Jane Cronkhite, the community librarian at Los Altos Library.


When applying for Santa Clara County Library card, an ID or document or is needed for proof of address:

  • Drivers license
  • Utility bill
  • Any kind of phone bill
  • Property tax bill


Students should bring in proof of school attended:

  • Student ID
  • Mailed envelope from the school
  • Report card


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