Mar 07 2016

The cost of requiring ID for library cards

To: Julie Holcomb, Abigail Franklin, Darryl Moore, Jim Novosel, Winston Burton, City of Berkeley <>
From: Eric Neville
Subject: The cost of requiring ID for library cards
Date: Mon, 7 Mar 2016 09:05:15 -0800
Dear Board of Library Trustees:

Sometimes the cost of how we do things sneaks up on us. I grew up visiting the Berkeley Public Main Library, but I was concerned recently when I was required to provide picture identification to renew my library card.

I don’t actually recall how long this has been policy. The reference librarian, who had a few years on me, said it’s been policy for as long as he remembers. But I also know that previously I personally had occasion to return a four-inch-thick law book that had apparently been taken from Main’s reference section, and which I found on the street a few blocks away, so current policy is certainly not a perfect protection for library resources. Indeed, no policy can be perfect, but can at best be struck to balance costs. These costs become more challenging to reckon with when the they are intangible, as they are for principles.

But principles do matter, such as when librarians opposed portions of the USA PATRIOT Act:

My concern stems from the intersection between the ill-founded presumption that identity documents ensure against abuse and the surreptitious cost to society that presumptive ID expectation inflicts.

What’s Wrong With Showing ID?

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