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Checking out books anonymously is the coward's way out. A true man is never scared to use his own name.

Rochelle, do Illinois libraries verify a patron's residency and tax delinquency status before answering a telephone reference question, allowing in-house use of magazines and photocopiers, etc.? Libraries serve patrons in many ways; circulation is just one of them. Perhaps it could be argued that Illinois libraries have been providing no-money-down circulation to taxpayers only, but that cash-backed lending falls into the category of Things For Which We Need Not Verify Residency, such as use of the bathroom or browsing the stacks.

Rochelle - that's a really good question. I suppose you'd need to look not only at state laws, but local jurisdictions to see if the anonymous card could fit within the language of those frameworks.

I don't know about IL, but I believe that California libraries that restrict borrowing to residents generally allow out-of-towners to purchase nonresident cards, If the privacy cardholder can only borrow up to the $$ on the card, it seems to me that the concern that taxpayers don't foot the bill for out-of-towners is addressed.

Speaking to which, a surcharge really should be added to the retail price of each book, in my opinion. E.g. to borrow a $20 book, a user should need $30 on a privacy card. Otherwise people may be tempted to use the library as a bookstore. Anyone who's worked in a library knows that the cost of acquiring, cataloguing, processing etc a book is far greater than the simple cost of the book.

And the ugly two tiered system for rich and poor? I'm still thinking out loud, but it seems that at least a privacy cardholder with .25 on the card (maybe even 0 cents), could request a book from outside that branch, opening up a truly giant library of books, even in a small community. The book is then held at the library to read in-house.

That brings me to the HOLD SHELF privacy issue. Libraries in my area have moved books on HOLD for users to a self-service shelf (I like it). One system near me shelves HOLDS by library card number. I also like that. Another, however, shelves them with giant labels showing the user's LAST NAME! Horrible. Any looky-loo can see what's being held and for whom.

I was hoping that you were going to comment on this, but wonder if you could address the issue of legislation. In Illinois, libraries are set up to legally serve residents of specific tax-paying districts, or those who are members of reciprocol districts. Would this anonymous service require legislation?

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