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

Bob Jones Bob.Jones at milton-freewater-or.gov
Mon Jul 9 16:00:40 PDT 2012

If they can come into the building and use materials in the building, isn't that access?  If they can use the Internet and attend meetings and programs in the building, isn't that access?

If the limits of available resources dictate we cannot distribute materials to people we have no way to contact when the materials are overdue, doesn't that fit our vision statement?

And if it's our taxpayers who must give us funding next year, and the year after that, don't we know which side our bread is buttered on?

Here in the real world we must be practical and objective when operating a tax-supported entity.  We must be able to defend our policies and procedures to the city administration, the city council, and our taxpayers.

-----Original Message-----
From: Hearn, Shaun [mailto:Shaun.Hearn at corvallisoregon.gov]
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2012 3:43 PM
To: Bob Jones; 'Candise Branum'
Cc: libs-or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us; Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney
Subject: RE: [Libs-Or] Library cards for homeless/those without permanent address

Actially, Bob, the mission of the Milton-Freewater Public Library is to serve the area's residents. You mission statement doesn't say anything about taxpayers.

"City Public Library Vision: To anticipate, recognize, and respond to changing patterns in the public's need and demand for library services and to address those needs and demands by revising library programs and services to meet them, within the limits of available resources."

"City Library Mission: To provide access to appropriate educational, instructional, and recreational materials in print and nonprint formats to the residents of the Milton-Freewater area."

Unless you're suggesting that someone who resides in your area isn't a resident until he can afford a utility bill, ID card, etc.

Shaun Hearn
Circulation Supervisor
Corvallis-Benton County Public Library
shaun.hearn at CorvallisOregon.gov

From: libs-or-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us [mailto:libs-or-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us] On Behalf Of Bob Jones
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2012 2:54 PM
To: 'Candise Branum'
Cc: libs-or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us; Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney
Subject: Re: [Libs-Or] Library cards for homeless/those without permanent address

Candise, I suspect your library's primary mission is to serve the faculty, staff, and students of your college, with limited, if any, service to the general public.  That's as it should be, because your funding comes from your college.

Likewise, my library's primary mission is to serve those who fund it, the taxpayers of Milton-Freewater and the Umatilla County Special Library District.  Through reciprocal borrowing agreements we also serve the patrons of other libraries in the Sage Library System.  If someone from outside that network comes in, they are free to use our books and other materials in the library.  If, however, they wish to carry our materials away from the library, they need a card, just like our local residents do.  Because visitors are not paying taxes to make these materials available, our generous free service to them stops at the door.  If they wish to borrow materials, there is an annual fee for getting a library card, and they must present ID from an approved list of acceptable items.

Why?  Because it would not be fair to our taxpayers to provide unlimited library services to those who pay no taxes to us.  Because my boss, the City Manager, expects me to take reasonable steps to ensure that materials which leave the building will return to it.

If I go to the public library in Walla Walla or Boise or Dubuque should I expect them to loan books to me?  No.  Why not?  Because they have the same responsibilities to their taxpayers and their local government that I have to mine.  If they allow me to use materials within their building, and do it at no charge, isn't that sufficiently generous?  How much more should I expect from them?

I'm sure that when a member of your college community checks out materials from your library, there is a penalty for failure to return them.  If you failed to maintain control over your collection, your bosses would hold you responsible for the losses; if too many items were lost, you would be penalized or even fired.

Homeless people also fall into a category of people who are not paying property taxes to support the library.  In addition, they fall into a category of people who would be difficult or impossible to track down and hold responsible if they failed to return materials.  Those are two good reasons to limit their use of library materials to within the confines of the library building.  By doing so we are not denying them access to library materials; in fact we are generously allowing them use of a building and a collection they are not supporting with property tax dollars.  What we are doing is exercising prudent control over a million dollars worth of materials for which we are responsible by not allowing them to carry those materials away.

I have compassion for homeless people, but I am not a social worker and the library is not a social service agency;  I'm a librarian and the library is an educational institution.  What I do for homeless people on my time is up to me, but what I do for them on the job as a city employee is limited by the ordinances and funding which govern the library.

-----Original Message-----
From: Candise Branum [mailto:cbranum at ocom.edu]
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2012 10:43 AM
To: Bob Jones
Cc: Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney; libs-or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
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

On Mon, Jul 9, 2012 at 10:28 AM, Bob Jones <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] 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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