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

Shannon Van Kirk SVanKirk at bluecc.edu
Mon Jul 9 10:50:28 PDT 2012

Save your breath, Candise.

You know, this issue is of more importance than most of us think because we are employed and relatively comfortable.
often during discussions like these, I have wondered how I would survive without people to talk with and books to read if I were homeless.  I once encountered a homeless man outside Gorky's restaurant in downtown L.A. who just seemed to want to talk with the artists and intellectuals who frequented that diner.  I thought at the time, "There but for the grace of god (and my puny librarian paycheck)..."

Shannon Van Kirk, Director
Blue Mountain Community College Library
Pendleton, OR 97801
Voice: (541) 278-5916
FAX: (541) 276-6119
<shannon.vankirk at bluecc.edu>

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From: libs-or-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us [mailto:libs-or-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us] On Behalf Of Candise Branum
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2012 10:43 AM
To: Bob Jones
Cc: libs-or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us; Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney
Subject: Re: [Libs-Or] Library cards for homeless/those without permanent address

I have to respectfully disagree, Bob. I think our responsibility is to not just serve those who can pay for services, but to enrich the community at large. Especially in times of economic crisis, the public library is one of the few places where people should have access to the resources that will allow them to enrich themselves. I think it is great that you are exploring this issue, Kirsten. I don't have any suggestions for you, but I'd love to hear what you decide.

Candise Branum, MLS
College Librarian
Oregon College of Oriental Medicine
10525 SE Cherry Blossom Drive
Portland, OR 97216
503-253-3443 ext.134 | www.library.ocom.edu<http://www.library.ocom.edu/>

On Mon, Jul 9, 2012 at 10:28 AM, Bob Jones <Bob.Jones at milton-freewater-or.gov<mailto:Bob.Jones at milton-freewater-or.gov>> wrote:

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> [mailto: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<mailto: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<mailto:kbrodbeck-kenney at lincolncity.org>

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