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State Library of Victoria La Trobe Reading Room
Photograph: State Library of Victoria/Supplied

How to digitally borrow books from the library while it’s closed

Rebecca Russo
Written by
Rebecca Russo

If you’re suddenly realising you’ve got a lot more time on your hands, maybe it’s time to finally catch up on all those books you’ve been meaning to read? 

Melbourne’s libraries are currently closed following the latest round of venue closures from the government, but did you know you can access almost all of your local library’s resources online? 

The State Library of Victoria, for instance, has more than 19,000 ebooks you can read digitally. To gain access, you need to be a library member. Luckily it’s free to sign up and it happens instantaneously (the library isn’t asking you to prove your Victorian residency right now so you’ll be able to access the catalogue faster). 

As a member of the State Library, you’ll be able to read ebooks, newspapers, scholarly journals and magazines from home. Here’s a quick guide to using its catalogue and video guides on how to download them from home using ProQuest Ebook Central and EBSCOhost ebooks. 

But the State Library is primarily a non-fiction research library, so you probably won’t find the latest novels you’re after here.

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do at home right now.

If you’re a member of another Melbourne library, like any of the Melbourne city council libraries (including Flinders Lane, Docklands, East Melbourne, North Melbourne, Southbank and Carlton) you can download thousands of ebooks using four different suppliers (and you don't need a Kindle or ebook reader to view them). You can sign up to become an online eLibrary member here (it’s free, and you’ll just need to verify your Victorian address through the post).

The online services available are:

Bolinda is most popular for audiobooks and has a great Australian ebook collection. It’s available on Android and iOS.
Cloud Library is an ebook and online audio provider. It’s available on Android, Windows, Apple iOS and Kindle Fire here.
RBDigital has a selection of online audiobooks and magazines with most titles available immediately. It’s available on Android and iOS here.
Freading has a selection of non-fiction books like self-help books and Lonely Planet guides as well as fiction, graphic novels and more. You need an Adobe ID in order to activate the Freading app or use Adobe Digital Editions on your ereader. 

The easiest to use (in my opinion!) is Cloud Library. Once you download the app and sign in using your library ID, it’s a relatively straightforward process for downloading books. You can search for what you’re after and click ‘borrow’ if you’d like to borrow it now, or ‘save for later’ if you’d like to borrow it at a later date. 

Once you’ve borrowed it the book will be downloaded, and you can read it on the app whenever you like. The app easily collates the books you have borrowed and lets you know how many days left you have to read them. You can also adjust the settings so the text can appear in different sizes, plus you can enter ‘night mode’ where the colours are inverted and it’s easier on your eyes to read.

Screenshots of reading apps

Photograph: Rebecca Russo

Happy reading, y'all! 

There are around 1.1 million digital items to download from the State Library of Victoria.

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