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Statewide Library Card Program

The Statewide Library Card Program's purpose is to increase the availability of library materials for Pennsylvanians by allowing eligible residents to register for a free library card at any participating public library. 

To be eligible to participate, Pennsylvania residents must live in a municipality that supports a state-aided public library for its residents (as outlined in the Pennsylvania Public Library Code). 

To determine if you are eligible to participate, check to see if your municipality is included on the list of municipalities that do not support state-public library services (PDF).  If your municipality is listed, you are not eligible to participate in the program.  The list is updated annually.

Pennsylvania residents who are not eligible to participate may register for a free POWER Library Ecard to use state-funded POWER Library e-resources.  Or, they may investigate purchasing a library card from a nearby public or academic library. 

For information about library services that may be offered as part of the Statewide Library Card Program, review the Guidelines for the Statewide Library Card System.  The guidelines also provide information about the program's purpose, intent, and procedures.

The Pennsylvania Public Library Code requires all public libraries that receive Public Library Subsidy funds from the commonwealth to participate in the Statewide Library Card Program (Title 24 PA. C.S.A. § 9334 (c)(1)).

Statewide Library Card System History

The Statewide Library Card System was developed in 1985-1986 under the banner of Access Pennsylvania, an umbrella program of statewide library services.

Access Pennsylvania was conceived in 1984 as part of the State Library of Pennsylvania's "Comprehensive Plan for Libraries in Pennsylvania: Recommendations for Improved Access to Library Resources."  With an overarching goal of expanding access to library resources, the plan identified three key objectives:

  1. Developing a statewide library card system that would allow all Pennsylvanians to use any publicly supported library;

  2. Expanding the use of technology to more effectively share library and information resources; and

  3. Improving the local financial support of public libraries and providing state assistance for the support of libraries in low-income communities.

To accomplish these objectives, work began in 1985 to develop a statewide union catalog on CD-ROM. During its first year, the CD-ROM catalog included 121 libraries (64 public libraries, 28 instructional media services, 25 school libraries, and four academic libraries). This CD-ROM catalog was greatly expanded, updated regularly, and later moved to the Internet. It served as the foundation for POWER Library services.

In 1985-1986, work began to develop the Statewide Library Card System.  The program's founding operational principle was reciprocity.  Its goal was to increase the availability of library materials for all Pennsylvanians. Library leaders drafted guidelines for it and the Office of Commonwealth Libraries implemented a statewide pilot project using 150 public libraries of varying types and sizes.  The pilot project called for each state-aided local library to agree to honor library cards from other state-aided local libraries with the understanding that borrowing privileges would be extended to its own users. The pilot project was highly successful, and it was phased-in over the next several years in all state-aided libraries. Now, as required by the PA Public Library Code, all state-aided public libraries must participate in the program (Title 24 PA. C.S.A. § 9334 (c)(1)).