The good thing about studying in the UK, is undoubtedly that everyone and the media speaks and write in English. Though it’s likely not a benefit if you’re into learning new languages, it’s definitely heaven for an avid reader with less budget like me, because all the books in the library and the bookstore are in English. As my lab’s based in Surrey, I applied to membership in Surrey Library, which is a big consortium of61 community libraries in the County of Surrey .
As I’ve mentioned in another post, my lab is in the middle of nowhere and I don’t have a lot of means of transportation. It’s very fortunate that Surrey library has quite a well-stocked overdrive collection (update: as of April 2017 Surrey Library Consortium has moved to CloudLibrary which I like far less compared to Overdrive).
After I bought e-book readers, it’s easier to me to read the digital version of books and articles (cough, thick books are not suitable for reading before sleeping, cough. Looking sadly at my abandoned physical book to-read-list). As the Surrey Library allow registration via email, I signed up for a membership online in my first month coming to the UK, and in just around a week, I get my member card sent via mail, which is very lovely indeed.
Sadly for non-Surrey people The Surrey Library Consortium’s only for people working, living, or studying in Surrey. (This includes the University of Surrey in Guildford). Other than that, Surrey Library is very helpful for my reading so far (as I still have a long wish list), but as it’s just for people in Surrey, the collection is not as big as I want it to be (It doesn’t have Hidden Figures, for example). As I am also registered as a student in London, I should be able to have memberships for London library as well. Apparently, there are some libraries in London which’re open for non-Londoners, the London Libraries Consortium, The Camden Library, Southwark Libraries, and Better/ Wandsworth Libraries are four of them. For these libraries, you need to physically come to the library to make a card (although you can shorten the procedure by creating an online account first before coming, one example is here for Camden. The London Library consortium has a lot of members, but I registered in Hackney branch. For Camden, I went to Holborn branch. Southwark I went to Canada Water, and Wandsworth I went to Battersea), but as I’m only registering for their e-book collection, no problemo! You need to show your ID (if I’m not wrong), but after registering online the overall process is about 15-30 minutes or so.
Most libraries are members of Overdrive E-Book Lending system. A lot more e-book lending libraries are available now compared to before, but sadly, a lot is for computer and phone only, and ironically not for e-book readers. Overdrive is available for computer, phone, and e-book readers, and not to mention free and available in a lot of countries, as long as you’re a member of a library (I will be waiting for Overdrive in Indonesia). Overdrive is available in 30 countries and 34000 library so far (the list is here)
It’s a good decision to register for more libraries, as their collections are complimenting each other. Based on my observation, in LLC there are a lot more science and science fiction books and omnibooks (as well as The Three-Body Problem and How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, both were in my wish-list), graphic novels (though mostly are 1st volume only), and series bundles (such as Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle series. In Camden Library a lot more hobby and art-and-craft books, how-tos, cooking, and traveling books. Oh, and also For Dummies series. As well as Harlequins(?) if you’re into those. To be fair I note that Camden Library has Darth Vader and Son and Lonely Planet Bali & Lombok, so yeah. So far no one has Ian Rankin books, I’m curious about his writing. Maybe I’ll check the physical collection if I have the means.
Other than Overdrive, the libraries also provide services from OneClickDigital, etc. but this article is mostly emphasising on Overdrive, so, not yet, maybe.
Some libraries in the UK are open for non-residents! Manchester Library is one of these. Let me do more research to be able to put out a list.