Today I helped a family new to the United States get library cards. After giving them the rundown on what a library membership means, I showed the kids the children’s area. The mother told them they could each check out two books. The smallest child, a girl of seven, picked out two small board books.
“Are you sure you don’t want a picture book?” I asked her, showing her a few new ones on display.
“Too much money,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“These cost less, right? They smaller.”
It hit me what she was saying: she was trying to save her parents money by choosing the smallest books.
“Do you know what?” I said. “All of this is free, no money. You can choose whichever books you want.”
She turned her head to look at the shelves of books and gasped at the bounty. She wandered away without another word and I watched her pick up book after book, shuffling through each one, making little piles, studying each one intently.
I’ve never been more proud I chose this career.
“Traugher’s decision, part of a two-hour hearing, came after a legal challenge filed by the city arguing that the library cards met the criteria under a revised state voter law. As of Jan. 1, a photo ID card issued by a state or federal institution is required as proof of identity before a ballot can be cast – a driver’s license being the most likely option. Attorneys for the state told Traugher the city lacked legal authority to issue valid picture IDs for voters, according to media reports. A lawsuit had been expected almost from the first day – July 5 – the new library card initiative was rolled out in Memphis. The city’s library system, Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton, Jr. said, is the very embodiment of a state institution. So there was no doubt the cards fit the requirements set down in the state law.”—
Bob Warburton, “Judge: Library Memphis Cards Aren’t Photo ID”, Library Journal.
This seems utterly ridiculous - not everyone has a driver’s license, and this could be the only form of state-issued photo ID that they have (because, yes! Public libraries are, in fact, a government institution). This is denying public libraries their place in government. When people sign up for a library card, they have to bring proof of who they are, so why shouldn’t a photo ID library card be proof of who they are as well? This ruling seems to invalidate not just library users, but libraries themselves.