Originally Posted by l_macd
You can no longer join Essex library without living in the area.
They responded to my query about being able to join online but not borrow any books and said they've recently changed the criteria due to concerns from publishers. To be able to borrow books you have to convert your temporary online membership to full membership by visiting the library. From what they say, it looks like tighter controls might be put in place everywhere:
Thanks for posting back, I've updated the original post accordingly.
I'm sure that this is the way of the future so far as UK libraries are concerned. Best to join while you can and try and organise visits around the UK if you are traveling for holidays or to visit family.