Library Cards Unlock Expensive Perks

Posted on August 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Blog · Tagged: , ,

BookmobileLos Altos Library patrons bagged a new perk last week when the Santa Clara County Library District added Rosetta Stone access for all of its users.

The digital language learning tool costs individual users $189 if they want to take a course in languages ranging from Spanish to Swahili and Arabic. But the libraries have used their collective institutional buying power to make it available to cardholders for free.

That’s one of the benefits that go beyond books at the library system, which has expanded its research and cultural services to stream everything from live classical music performances to coding lessons.

The library system’s virtual library – accessed through the website at – includes so many resources that it can be easy to miss items like the New York Times digital subscriber access ($195 per year) and free-to-patrons downloads of songs ranging from David Bowie’s classics to Adele’s latest album.

Students can log in and chat live with a free tutor across many subjects and grade levels using Brainfuse. livestreams concerts, operas and ballets from around the world and archives the performances on demand – right now, viewers can watch Agnes Letestu dancing Prokofiev’s “Cinderella” with the Corps de Ballet de l’Opera National de Paris.

The technology used to provide audiobook and e-book access has been sharply improving in recent years, as the library’s mobile app improves the process of logging in, checking out and handing off digital access to the apps that provide the content.

Finding all the services available to cardholders requires skimming through the “browse” and “research” sections of the library website. Lew highlighted a few resources worth picking out of the broad offerings:

• Freegal: Download MP3 files of everything from Sia to classical concertos. Limited to five tracks per week.

• Zinio: Download current digital editions of magazines ranging from The Economist to GQ and Newsweek. Children’s magazines include staples such as Highlights and Cricket.

• Safari: Access digital editions of science and engineering texts from “Hadoop: The Definitive Guide” to the “The Art of Game Design.” Safari includes the prolific O’Reilly series.

• Treehouse and Universal Class: Both sites offer online learning ranging from babysitting 101 to Adobe Photoshop and accounting. Online video courses at Treehouse feature interactive lessons in coding and web development.

• Newspapers: The library provides digital log-ins to newspapers including The New York Times and The Mercury News, as well as a database of international periodicals, with a particularly popular collection of 800 Chinese journals via Dragonsource.

To browse the collections and for more information, visit:



Leave a Reply