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READING, Pa. - The new year will bring with it a big change in the Berks County Public Libraries' borrowing policy.

The 19-member library system announced Thursday that, effective Jan. 1, it will extend borrowing privileges to all Pennsylvania residents.

The policy change, according to the system's administrator, builds on the Statewide Library Card Program, which was developed in 1985-86 to increase the availability of library materials for Pennsylvanians.

That program, however, limits eligibility for free statewide access to people living in a municipality that supports a state-aided library. Everyone else has to pay an annual fee.

"We're taking the foundation of the Statewide Library Card Program and going one step further," said Amy Resh, the system's administrator. "Every member library in our system is state-aided. The library directors and advisory board agree if Pennsylvania residents are contributing to our libraries, it is our responsibility to make sure they have access to our materials."

Under the new borrowing policy, the 19 member libraries will issue two types of cards based on where users live, work, or learn.

All Berks residents and those who work or learn in the county will continue to use their current card and have access to all materials and services available from their home library.

Pennsylvania residents who don't live, work, or attend school in Berks County can register for a free, limited-service card, which will allow them to borrow physical materials from any Berks County public library.

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