Approximately one million people in Illinois do not have access to public library services, because they are not taxed for library service by a local governing agency.
These untaxed Illinois residents are referred to as nonresidents in the Illinois Library Laws and Rules.
A nonresident FAQ is available from the Illinois State Library. This document answers many questions related to nonresident services.
Access to public libraries is a crucial part of early childhood literacy, lifelong learning and academic success. People in Illinois who do not live within a library service area are at a disadvantage with other states that have universal service when they compete for college admission or jobs throughout their lives.
Illinois State Library's Public Library Service Areas Map is a tool that allows you to look up an address in the state to check whether it is served by a public library.
Library Cards for Nonresidents
There are two ways for public libraries to provide library cards (and services that require a library card) to nonresidents:
Nonresident Card Program
Individuals and families may purchase cards from the closest public library where nonresident cards are available. The board of each public library is required by Illinois law to decide annually whether the library will participate in the nonresident fee program, and to inform RAILS within 30 days of board action.
Nonresident cards are free of charge to disabled veterans and their surviving spouses.
Under the "Cards for Kids" provisions, nonresident card fees are waived for students who are eligible to receive free or reduced price meals under the National School Lunch Program and the National School Breakfast Program.
In 2022, PA 102-0843 expanded Cards for Kids to allow participating libraries to optionally waive the nonresident card fee for all persons under the age of 18.
More About Cards for Kids
- RAILS Minute, February 4, 2021, Deirdre Brennan provides background information and clears up misconceptions about the Cards for Kids Act.
- RAILS Member Update (January 28, 2021) - recording cued to the discussion about new nonresident Administrative Rules and the Cards for Kids Act
- RAILS Member Update (December 8, 2020) - recording cued to the discussion about unserved people and the Cards for Kids Act
Public libraries may also offer nonresidents access to electronic resources, free of charge.
A municipality, school district, or other local government agency may contract with a public library to provide services to its untaxed residents.