[Libs-Or] Library cards for homeless/those without permanent address

Bob Jones Bob.Jones at milton-freewater-or.gov
Mon Jul 9 10:28:12 PDT 2012


This is an interesting question, because it's not simply "How do we serve everyone who wants service?".

Most public libraries are supported primarily through property taxes.  Therefore their primary responsibilities are:

(1)     Provide services to those who provide your funding, which would be property owners who pay taxes directly and renters who pay taxes indirectly through their property-owner landlords
(2)     Safeguard a large investment in public property (books, periodicals, videos, audio recordings, etc.) by having a way to track down and hold accountable borrowers who fail to return materials

For these reasons, most libraries require library card applicants to show proof of residence in the city, county, or district which funds the library.  In addition, there often are severe limits on first-time borrowers, who account for a high percentage of losses.

Homeless people generally cannot provide documentation to verify residency.  Likewise, some people who have resided in your service area for years choose to not have any form of ID which you may require, such as a driver's license, DMV ID card, voter registration card, utility bill, etc.  If you refuse to issue cards to one group, how can you justify serving the other (and this works in both directions)?

If you want to have more lenient standards for homeless people and/or for people who choose to have no form of ID, how can you justify stricter standards for other people?  That would be discriminatory.  But do you really want anyone who walks in the door to carry out anything they wish with no reasonable way to find them and hold them responsible for failure to bring stuff back in a timely manner?  That would be irresponsible.

I'd be interested in learning what you decide to do, and how you justify it.

Bob Jones
Library Director
Milton-Freewater Public Library

-----Original Message-----
From: libs-or-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us [mailto:libs-or-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us] On Behalf Of Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney
Sent: Sunday, July 08, 2012 3:43 PM
To: libs-or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
Subject: [Libs-Or] Library cards for homeless/those without permanent address

We're currently exploring ways to better serve our transient population here in Lincoln City. In the past we have worked out cards for individuals staying at a nearby domestic violence shelter, and we allow anyone to make use of our computers, but I would like to set up something more permanent and wide-ranging that would allow individuals without a permanent address to better access library services.

We have some ideas here on staff, but I would be very interested in hearing how other libraries have tackled this. What kinds of requirements do you have in order to obtain a card? Do cards for those without permanent address have the same borrowing privileges, or modified privileges? Have you experienced a great deal of material loss, or no? I suspect I may have to work pretty hard to get 100% buy-in from my board and from staff, so any information you've got would be great!

Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney
Library Director
Driftwood Public Library
801 SW HWY 101, #201
Lincoln City, OR 97367
kbrodbeck-kenney at lincolncity.org

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