Monday, September 24, 2012

The Value of a Library Card

I conduct a lot of genealogy research from the comfort of my home computer. One of the key resources I use is my St. Louis County Public Library Card.  (Other library systems, as well as some genealogy societies, provide similar resources for their users.)

Here's a sampling of databases I can search/browse from the comfort of my home, for free (complete list)

I have indicated the subscription price I'd have to pay without the library card
  • ($72/yr)
  • American Civil War Research Database (Available only to libraries - AlexanderStreet)
  • ($80/yr)
  • Historical New York Times 1851-2008 (Available only to libraries - ProQuest
  • Historical St. Louis Post Dispatch 1874-1922 (Available only to libraries - ProQuest)
  • St. Louis Post Dispatch 1988-Current ($200/yr - NewsBank *)
  • Kansas City Star 1991-Current ($200/yr - NewsBank *)
  • Nineteenth Century US Newspapers (Available only to libraries - Gale Cengage)
  • ProQuest Digital Microfilm - NYTimes 2008-2012 (Available only to libraries)
  • ProQuest Digital Microfilm - St. Louis Post Dispatch 2008-2012 (Available only to libraries)
  • ProQuest Digital Sanborn Maps 1867-1970 Missouri and Illinois (Available only to libraries)
In addition to the above, there are two general reference items I find very useful
  • Oxford English Dictionary (~$348/yr depending on exchange rate)
  • Oxford Reference Online (available only to libraries) 
So calculating only the databases which I could purchase access to as an individual, I am saving $700/year with my library card. Then there are the databases I can't purchase access to as an individual.

And this doesn't include the resources available to me when I actually visit the library.
  • An extensive microfilm collection
  • The National Genealogical Society Book Loan Collection (over 20,000 volumes) - all the volumes are available through inter-library loan to you if you have a library card where you live.
  • Library-access to the Library Edition (I pay Ancestry for home-access, so I can't add this to my personal value)
*The annual subscription at NewsBank's provides you access to more newspapers, but there is a 500 article limit.


Unknown said...


A great post on the value of holding a library card. Just wanted to add that sometimes society memberships also provide access to similar online resources.


John said...

Excellent point, thanks! I have updated the entry appropriately.

Cynthia Shenette said...

I've always thought of the library as the great equalizer, available to all no matter what your circumstances. And what about those librarians, eh?!? With text/chat/e-mail reference services are faster and more accessible than ever!

I'm a librarian so maybe I'm more than a little biased, but unfortunately not everyone sees their value the way you and I do. Budget cuts are rampant. My son's regional system (five towns) dumped the library staff at all the schools in the system. They've decided to run the libraries with volunteer moms. Depressing.

Your post has shined a light on the value of what we do. Thank you for your post!

Martin said...

How much do you pay in property taxes? Your $700 is included in that amount.

John said...

Those who don't pay anything in property taxes still have the right to a library card.

You are right, though, that it is property taxes that support the libraries, and those who do pay property taxes do pay for the access of everyone in the community.

Of course, property taxes cover a lot of other costs, as well. Schools, fire department, sewers. I'm unsure what the local percentage is for the library, but I can assure you that for me, that percentage is less than $700. Much less.