The Future of Library Cards is an article by Kaitlin Throgmorton,  published in American Libraries Magazine, discussing the introduction of digital library cards, and the potential benefits they offer. An excerpt is given below, but click the link for the full article.

If libraries are the door to knowledge, library cards are the key. Once a mere slip of paper bearing a patron’s name, the library card is evolving into a technologically sophisticated tool that can help patrons access information more quickly and easily than ever before.

At many libraries, digital “cards”—which usually consist simply of numbers that patrons use to access digital items—have become standard. The Harris County (Tex.) Public Library (HCPL) introduced its version, the iKnow Digital Access Card, as a way to “reduce as many barriers as possible,” says Library Director Edward Melton.

IKnow card holders can access the library’s digital collections—including ebooks, streaming video and audio, magazines, and research databases—within minutes. Acquiring an iKnow card is as simple as registering via an online form, which is viewable only within the state of Texas, and which accepts only registrants who have ZIP codes in or adjacent to Harris County. Currently, nearly 50,000 people, or about 4% of HCPL’s total patrons, hold an iKnow card.