From Plastic to Pixels: How Digital Membership Cards are Transforming Library Access

For generations, libraries have fulfilled their mission of broadening access to information for all community members. Today, digital tools extend this reach through convenient online access and pushes the democratisation of access to information even further. While traditional library membership cards have served us well for many years, digital cards offer a handy new way to access instant services right at your fingertips thanks to smart technology and mobile apps.

Let’s explore how turning memberships from plastic to pixels is reducing costs for libraries and offering a convenient, safer and sustainable solution for users to access services remotely, reserve books, and receive important notifications about due dates or upcoming events.

Simple convenience and digital inclusivity

With all the various cards that many of us carry around these days – from banking and travel cards to store loyalty programs – it’s easy for our wallets to become overstuffed or have a card go AWOL. Who hasn’t found themselves fumbling around in a rush, futilely pawing through receipts and reward points vouchers while you try to locate the right piece of plastic for the situation at hand?

With digital membership cards, library users can conveniently access their library accounts directly from their smartphones — this means that as long as you have your phone with you, you have instant access to all the resources and services your library has to offer. For community members without personal smartphones or consistent internet connectivity, virtual cards can be accessed using in-branch digital devices or public computers and WiFi. It’s a hassle-free experience that’s more efficient and inclusive, helping streamline access to resources for many Australians on the go.

An enhanced library experience

Digital cards can be seamlessly integrated with mobile apps to remotely access core services on any device. Library members can reserve books, renew loans, and place holds for newly available titles all with a few taps. Push notifications can keep members updated on account statuses, renewal reminders or other important notices that require action. A great example of this is if a member receives a notification about an upcoming due date, they can quickly renew their borrowed items through the app, eliminating the need for a physical visit to the library.

Libraries also gain new opportunities to better communicate and engage their digital-first communities through virtual channels. The mobile experience opens new avenues to promote library resources, encourage new members to sign-up and improve outreach beyond physical branches. This enhanced interactive experience gives communities the opportunity to interact with services that give them more value from their memberships.

Cost savings (on your wallet and the planet!)

In addition to convenience benefits, digital cards provide significant cost savings for libraries and their patrons. Traditional plastic cards can cost an average of $1 – 3 AUD per card for materials and printing alone, while replacing lost or damaged cards can set members back between $5 – 15 AUD. Going digital removes these material expenses and lowers long-term operational costs, meaning funds can instead be reallocated to expanding services and improving resources.

Digital cards are also more environmentally friendly, eliminating waste from discarded plastic cards. With sustainability and reducing environmental footprints being priority goals in Australia, libraries have an easily available opportunity to strengthen their green credentials.

A safer way to access services and information

In an era of heightened awareness around contagion risks, contactless checkouts reduce potential transmission points. By scanning mobile displays instead of exchanging items handled by many others, digital interactions lower the chances of spreading disease, especially during busy library periods. In pandemic times and beyond, virtual cards offer the safest solution for both library staff and the communities they serve.

But it’s not just your physical safety at play, there’s your data safety too.

By using a digital membership card, sensitive identification details are encrypted on remote servers rather than printed publicly. Should a physical card ever be lost or stolen, there is a potential for misuse of your personal information. However, digital profiles are only accessible through authorised devices and accounts, minimising the risk of misuse and safely storing your user details on encrypted servers.

Equitable access anytime, anywhere

Perhaps the biggest benefit of digital cards is freeing access from physical location barriers. Patrons can reserve books, stream and download ebooks/audiobooks, access online databases and periodicals, or conduct research remotely on any device using just their login credentials. This is especially impactful for individuals balancing work, family and study with limited time to visit physical branches.

Digital access also benefits those with limited mobility, illnesses preventing travel, or communities in remote areas far from library facilities. By removing location restrictions, libraries can expand the communities they serve well beyond the four walls of any building. This plays a pivotal role in advancing equitable, inclusive access to information resources for all members of the public.

A digital future for libraries

Digital technology continues to shape how modern libraries fulfil their missions of spreading knowledge and fostering engaged communities. As on-the-go lifestyles evolve, virtual library passes ensure anyone can remotely explore new ideas or reconnect with old favourites from anywhere, anytime. It is this barrier-free spirit of learning that defines libraries’ core purpose—and digital memberships bring them one step closer to that goal through accessible, digital democracy in action.

Speak to Litecard today to take your cards digital.

Connect with Litecard

Find out how clients are using our platform to create member and ID intelligence for better business decisions.