Photo: Dmitrii Shironosov via 123RF

As your kids are gearing up for the new school year, encourage them to build their love of reading by adding a virtual library card to their scholastic toolkit. With access to your local library’s online collection, your children can learn to explore new genres and authors independently and transition their love of screens to a love of digital reading. Here’s everything you need to know about virtual library cards and accessing the millions of titles available at your fingertips!

What are Virtual Library Cards?

In a world where so many things are digital, your library experience can be too! If you’re unable to make trips to the local library or just like the added convenience of browsing at home, a virtual library card allows you to access much of your local public library’s offerings digitally. Through ebooks and audiobooks, libraries can share their collections with patrons online. If you already have a library card, you’re ready to go!

Virtual library cards also allow users to experience materials in more accessible formats—you can zoom in on small illustrations, change the font size, enable reading mode, etc. Virtual library cards are also a great way to encourage your children to continue reading over school breaks and on weekends. They’ll feel like it’s “screen time” while they cultivate their love of reading! By seeing the titles and cover art for many items easily, your kids are sure to find new material that interests them in no time.\

Cheerful African American schoolgirl sitting at laptop doing homework.
Cheerful African American schoolgirl sitting at laptop doing homework over yellow background In studio. Credit: \milkos via 123RF

Photo: milkos via 123RF

How Do I Choose and Use an App?

The most significant factor that will determine which digital library service you download is your local library’s offerings. Some libraries have partnered with multiple platforms, making it easy to choose your family’s favorite app for browsing. Other libraries only offer their collections through one platform, so make sure to investigate which app your system prefers.

After downloading one of these popular apps, you’ll enter your family’s library card information, so make sure you’ve gotten cards for everyone in your home (even the littlest members!). In general, each library card attached to a digital platform can check out several items at a time, so having a card for your toddler means that you can enjoy several books aimed right at their developmental level without sacrificing your teen’s graphic novels.

Your library app will automatically return selections on their due dates, and it’s easy to renew titles for a longer loan period if you’d like more time. Putting items on hold is also simple in most apps, so you don’t have to worry about remembering what you want to read next!

If you’re ready to try a virtual library experience, below are three of the most popular apps.


A standout feature with HooplaDigital is its desktop/web browser compatibility. While other services only offer apps, Hoopla can be used from an app or a web browser. That makes it easy for your kids to read books on the family computer if they don’t have a tablet or device of their own; you can also download items for offline reading. The Hoopla interface is easy to use, and you can select whether or not your borrowing history is saved so the app can offer suggestions for future items—a great feature to help kids find unexplored works to enjoy! The browsing feature is useful for combing through a specific genre or age range, while keyword search is available for those who know their preferred title or author.


Libby is a popular app choice among libraries. Using the OverDrive service, Libby offers a vast array of items from your local library’s collection. With the ability to sync to your Kindle device, you can let your kids read and download selections for offline learning at home or on vacation. Libby also easily syncs your bookmarks and lists across devices, so you don’t have to worry about everyone switching tablets/phones/devices as needed. Other popular features include a built-in sleep timer and the ability to search through text for particular words and phrases. Libby is available for Android and Apple products but not for web browsing.


Available for Apple, Android, and Kindle users, BorrowBox is a fast-growing option for public libraries that want to make their collections available online. Aimed at providing a quality user experience, BorrowBox allows you to interact with your loaned materials more than other platforms might. You can highlight and save key passages, bookmark items, change the font size and style, and more. Browsing for new titles is also intuitive through BorrowBox, so patrons who aren’t looking for a particular item might find more success with this app than others.

Whether you’ve returned to your local library in person or not, using a virtual library card to enjoy a full collection of audio and ebooks is a great way to encourage your kids to continue cultivating their love of reading from the comfort of their own homes.