Free to Read: How to Access Public Library Resources from Home in the Corridor

Running out of things to do at home? Wishing you had a good book to read, now that you’ve got the time for it? Kids need new books to keep their reading skills sharp while school’s out? You can find a page-turning novel for yourself, movies on DVD, books to guide you in at-home pursuits like crafts, cooking, gardening, and dog training, or a great family read-aloud, even though libraries are closed.

Read on to find out what a few Iowa City area libraries are offering and how to access their resources.

a woman uses a smartphone and laptop at the same time while searching her online library

Iowa City Public Library, Coralville Public Library, and North Liberty Public Library cardholders have access to these online resources:

E-books and e-audiobooks

A collection of thousands of digital versions of popular books for all ages are available to borrow via the free Libby app or streamed directly from the library’s online catalog. Many more new titles have recently been added!


A streaming video service offering over 30,000 documentary, classic, and indie films, plus educational content for children, including short narrated picture book films.

The New York Times

The digital version is available.


This is a collection of digital magazines.


This is a collection of narrated books for kids.

All of these resources require clicking the link on your library’s website and logging in with a library card number and PIN/password. If you don’t know this information, contact the library in your town of residence (contact information for each is given below).

Your local library can also issue a card to you for the first time over the phone or online. Don’t forget that all K-12 students in Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) public schools were automatically issued a limited library card earlier this school year, which can be used to check out physical materials or access online resources, too.

little boy plays with tablet computer at a table while searching the online library

Iowa City Public Library

The Iowa City Public Library is closed until further notice, but can be reached via the Live Chat feature on the library website – the chat is monitored from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday and staff are available to issue cards, help with online resources, or answer other questions. Browse additional digital resources on the website, too, like the Local Music Project, historical Iowa City newspapers, Consumer Reports, Mango and Little Pim (language learning for adults and kids), and the library’s YouTube channel, where an interactive storytime is posted daily, along with other kids programming. ICPL has also created a Spring Reading Challenge that allows families to log the books they’re reading online and earn digital badges.

Coralville Public Library

The Coralville Public Library is closed until further notice, but reference staff are answering phones and email Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. CPL is also offering curbside pickup of physical library materials. Log in online, call 319-248-1850, or email [email protected] to create a card for the first time or use your card to place holds on items you desire. When notified that holds are ready, patrons can drive up between noon and 1 p.m. or 5 to 6 p.m. on weekdays, or during staffed hours on the weekend, and call the library from the parking lot. Items will then be checked out, bagged, and deposited in a cart outside the door.  Once items have been left and staff have re-entered the building, patrons may approach to pick up their items. Returned items are being left untouched for three days before being checked in and re-entering circulation.

North Liberty Public Library

The North Liberty Public Library is closed until further notice, but staff are answering phones and responding to email Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Patrons can be issued a library card for the first time on their website, and NLPL is also offering curbside pickup of physical materials during this time. Call 319-626-5701 or email [email protected] to request items. Library staff will sanitize, package, and check out up to six items to your library account, and walk them to your car. The items will be placed in your open trunk or hatchback, and patrons are asked not to get out of their car. NPL is also offering document printing services with curbside pickup.

an open book and cup of coffee lie on a bed. Some library books can still be check out and picked up at the curb

At Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty libraries, due dates have been extended and no fines are being assessed. Existing fines do not prevent you from accessing digital resources, and staff at Coralville and North Liberty are being very forgiving regarding existing fines when patrons want to use their curbside service. Contact the library in your town of residence for help accessing services, or with any other questions.

Staff are eager to help recommend titles you’d enjoy and guide you in accessing the services that are still available to make your time at home as enjoyable as possible.

What are you reading during social distancing?

Anne is a kinda crunchy, kinda unapologetically corner-cutting mom who has lived in Iowa City since 2004. She is a graduate student in Library and Information Science at the University of Iowa and works in the Children's Services department at the Iowa City Public Library. Before going back to school, she was a stay-at-home mom to her two daughters for several years, and took her children to the library multiple times a week. Basically, she has lived at the library for about a decade. Which is fine, because her biggest passion in life is books. When not reading, Anne also enjoys hiking, low-budget road-tripping, and drinking craft beer on a patio.


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