Every Book Counts

A True Texas Tale of Identification

It’s been said that education is the great equalizer. And to that end, public libraries for decades have played an important role in providing the public free access to a valuable knowledge base.

But many library patrons (admittedly, myself included) have, in the course of life, misused this privileged resource incurring over-due book fines — or even, losing a book altogether.

Empirical data is hard to come by. But the American Library Association suggests that such negligence may result in “a loss of .15% to .5% per year” (yes, that is half of 1%). Thankfully — as a friend and recent Texas transplant found out all too well — our Public Libraries are doing something to ensure the security of our books:

Having just migrated to Texas, my friend sought out our Victoria Public Library to apply for a library card but was stymied by official library policy, which states:

Library cards are free to residents of Texas. Proof of a current Texas address must be shown with at least one of the following:

  • A valid government issued ID with current address or
  • A government issued photo ID and a printed check or utility bill with current address

(note: Non-Texas residents pay a discriminatory $30 annual fee, or tax — for limited access to library resources.)

My friend had only been in Texas a few days and thus did not yet have either of these documents. Not to be thwarted, my friend set out to remedy the situation and headed over to the local TxDPS office to obtain a Texas Drivers License. Among other requirements, the Texas Department of Public Safety requires that…

Individuals applying for a Texas driver license must:

Gather documents that verify their:

  • identity
  • Social Security Number
  • U.S. citizenship or lawful presence status and
  • Texas residency.

Finally, my friend was making headway. An out-of-state drivers license would verify Identity and US citizenship. His Social Security Card displayed his Social Security Number. But, how to prove Texas residency?

The TxDPS lists 17 types of documents one can use to prove Texas residency. Most would take days or weeks to obtain. One document, however, would not — a Texas Voter Registration Card.

Determined to obtain that elusive Public Library Card, my friend — the Undocumented-Texan — made a beeline for the Victoria County Elections Office.

To register to vote in Texas, you must:

  • be a United States citizen
  • be a resident of the county where you submit the application
  • be at least 18 years old on Election Day

…but you do not have to provide any proof of such when registering.

And sure enough, my friend — without being asked to show any proof of identity, citizenship, age or residency — was able to apply for and immediately obtain a Texas Voter Registration Card. Finally, legal proof of Texas residency!

Voter Registration Card in hand, my now documented-Texan friend made his way back to the TxDPS office and obtained his Texas Drivers License. And with his newly minted Texas Drivers License, finally was able to obtain his Victoria Public Library card and check out books.

With library loss potentially at a rampant half percent, its good to see librarians across America have implemented strict book security policies. It is important that we work together to ensure that only those who should be checking out books are indeed checking out books — and that, of course, every book is counted!