The Austin Public Library has launched a pilot program for Enhanced Library Cards featuring the cardholder’s photograph and accepted by many local agencies and organizations as a valid form of identification and as a new card option for library users who might benefit from another form of photo ID.
The APL Enhanced Library Card is a full-access library card for Austin residents 18 or older that includes the holder’s library card number, photograph, address, date of birth, the expiration date, and a scannable barcode.
The card can be used the same as a standard library card to check out materials at all APL locations, as well as online to access eBooks and other digital resources, and is also recognized by many other City of Austin departments and local organizations as a valid form of identification, or supplement with other documents to prove one’s identity.
“We are very excited to be able to provide the community with this resource,” stated Austin Public Library Director Roosevelt Weeks. “Libraries exist to lift barriers, and we know there are many in our community who have difficulty accessing certain services because of difficulty obtaining identification or who would otherwise simply benefit from having another form of ID. We are grateful to our colleagues in other city departments and our partners in other organizations who have worked with us in order to help lift that barrier with the Enhanced Library Card.”
For many Austin residents, the lack of a government-issued identification can have a negative impact on their quality of life. This is especially true for vulnerable populations such as people experiencing homelessness, formerly incarcerated, and immigrant communities who often do not have access to the paperwork required to obtain a state-issued photo ID.
Additionally, people with physical disabilities often face unique barriers when trying to obtain a photo ID. These barriers include lack of access to transportation, limited mobility, and difficulty navigating the application process. IDs are often required for housing, education, healthcare, banking, and the lack of an ID may also deter individuals from reporting crimes.
Several other Texas library systems have established similar Enhanced Library Card programs over the last few years, including San Antonio, San Marcos, Harris County, and Dallas. Last July, the Austin Library Commission passed a recommendation calling on the City to establish an Enhanced Library Card program. Austin City Council Member Vanessa Fuentes introduced a budget amendment for the current fiscal year dedicating $12,000 for equipment to establish the pilot program.
APL staff worked with the City of Austin Equity Office and other City departments and local organizations to ensure the cards met their requirements in order to secure broad community recognition of the Enhanced Library Card as a valid identification, granting cardholders access to a wide array of services.
As of May 1, Austin Public Library has obtained confirmation from multiple City departments – including Austin Police Department, Austin Energy, and Austin Public Health – as well as over a dozen community organizations that they will accept the Enhanced Library Card as a valid form of identification.
A full list of City departments and local organizations currently accepting the Enhanced Library Card as a form of ID is available at: library.austintexas.gov/enhanced
During the initial pilot program, Enhanced Library Cards will be available at three APL locations:
- Little Walnut Creek Branch, 835 W. Rundberg Ln
- St. John Branch, 7500 Blessing Ave.
- Southeast Branch, 5803 Nuckols Crossing Rd.
APL will gather feedback from the community during the pilot phase, with the intention of further refining the cards, identifying potential additional partners to accept the cards, and expanding the program to additional locations in the future.