I saw this on The Colbert Report last night and include it for the amusement of my library colleagues.
The library I work for and the other libraries in the Greater Kansas City area have liberal policies in this area. Anyone who walks in the door and can offer proof of an address – any U.S. address – can have a library card. It seems to work well. It particularly advantages Cass and North Kansas City as ours are the smallest among them.
I have worked for Springfield Greene County Library. Unless we could verify a Greene County address, we had to charge a hefty annual fee (the amount the average Greene County resident paid in library property taxes – in the neighborhood of $70, as I recall) or send them packing. Greene County is bordered on the south by a very populous area, northern Christian County. At that time, the fiscally conservative folk that resided in Northern Christian County paid lower property taxes (happy for them) and also – perhaps consequently – had a relatively shitty library system (too bad for them). So I understood the rationale for the SGCL policy: where’s the incentive to tax themselves to improve their own library if they can drive a couple miles and enjoy a state of the art library facility on the backs of Greene County taxpayers? But it was still tough – as someone facing the public – to tell people like this kid, “Sorry, no books for you.”
Update: There are some intersting comments here on this from librarians. Personally, I don’t think there is much of a reason to be thin-skinned about this episode. Sure, the report was unfair to the library’s position and went rather out of it’s way to portray the librarian poorly for laughs. But all things considered, this is some very good press for libraries. For one, our services are portrayed as being valuable and in demand. And the report highlights another important point easily overlooked: that libraries cannot be taken for granted.