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Library membership & IDs for new arrivals

For people newly arrived into an area, the local library can act as a welcoming and safe space providing vital signposting to support and resources. However in some areas, the need to show proof of identification to become a library member excludes people who are still awaiting official asylum documentation.

This prerequisite for ID in order to become a member can stop new arrivals from accessing the valuable resources that the library has to offer.

Looking into this potential issue, the Libraries of Sanctuary network – libraries who either currently have the Library of Sanctuary award or are working towards it – have shared their policies around membership and IDs for new arrivals.

No ID required

  • Brighton & Hove Libraries
  • Cambridgeshire Libraries: “our introductory membership doesn’t require any ID, and one of the changes we made this year was to bring the duration of that in line with ‘traditional’ membership. Both types are now valid for 3 years, though introductory members are only able to borrow two items at a time. We also offer an instant card-free membership, which again is valid for 3 years and doesn’t require any ID.”
    Hampshire Library & Information Service (“Membership is a very fast process (couple of minutes, max) and customers can borrow immediately”
  • Kirklees Libraries
  • Libraries Northern Ireland: “From January 2023 Libraries NI will not be asking for ID when someone joins. Currently we have virtual borrowers who can join on line and use the eResources straight away and this will continue. Virtual borrowers only needed to produce ID if they wanted to use the library, computers or borrow physical books but from January 2023 they will also not need to show ID.”
  • North Yorkshire Library and Information Service
  • Oldham Library Service
  • Salford Community Leisure (“Children need a parent or guardian’s signature to join”)
  • Sefton Library Service
  • Stockport Libraries
  • Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Libraries

‘Lite’ membership

  • Dudley Libraries: “if somebody doesn’t have ID we create them an account as a new borrower with the details they give and send the card out to them via post so it confirms their address details that way. They can take out up to four books on the new borrower account instantly and we can log them onto the computers using the card number we created. They then have to bring the card into the library for us to update them from new borrower to a full account.”
  • Liverpool City Region: “In the Liverpool City region we also have a library lite offer, which allows for patrons to use any library service across the City Region.”
  • Norfolk Library Service: “have a lite membership that doesn’t need a proof of address to join the library. Customers with this membership category can borrow up to four books and can access our computers, e-book and e-audio offer as well as Pressreader.”
  • Salford Community Leisure: “our joining process is pretty quick, maybe five mins, so we don’t need a lite version”
  • Southwark Library Service: “In Southwark people can join online and borrow eBooks straight away but will be asked to show ID on their first visit to the library. Borrowers without proof of address can be joined as a guest member, allowing them access to public PCs and the internet. Official ID showing the person’s name must be shown in order to open a guest account, e.g. bank card, passport, etc. The ID does not need to contain their address. Guest members can borrow up to two books but not AV items. Guest accounts have a default expiry date of one month from the date of joining.”
  • Stockport Libraries: “We also issue guest ID’s for those wishing to use PC’s without joining the library.”
  • Warwickshire Library Service: “In Warwickshire you don’t need ‘ID’ to join in person, but you do need proof of address in the form of a driving licence, bill etc (so we know you live in Warwickshire or a neighbouring county). If you do not have that with you, you can join online. We have PCs available for people to use and do that on the spot. That makes them instantly a temporary member until they receive their card through the post when it becomes permanent. Temporary members can loan 2 items. If the person is NFA they can join as a temporary member or if guaranteed by a local charity or organisation can join c/o their address. We sign anyone living in temporary accommodation such as hotels as temporary members until they have a permanent address.”
  • West Sussex Library Service: “We have a ‘Provisional Membership’ for people who do not have ID or who may not have realised that we require this for full membership. Provisional membership enables people to borrow up to 4 items (up to 2 hire charge items) and have 2 hours of free internet use per day. If the customer provides ID at a later date the membership is changed to full membership.

Refugee category membership

  • Brighton & Hove Libraries: “However with our membership it can be updated to a concessionary card or an exemption card. To update to a concessionary card, we need proof of their benefits (e.g. Universal credit) which means they don’t pay for certain items or half price for things e.g. refugees coming from Ukraine who are in receipt of benefits. Exemption cards were originally for people with additional needs but we have added asylum seekers to this category of card as we have charges on overdue items so they are exempt from incurring charges plus don’t pay for other items e.g. talking books etc. If they are part of a refugee/asylum seekers group that we host in the library the leader of the group just has to verbally verify they are eligible for an exempt card. If they join independently and say their address as one of the hotels hosting asylum seekers they will automatically get an exempt card as we don’t ask for proof of address.”
    Hampshire Library & Information Service: “with longer loans and fewer fines or charges for things”
  • North Yorkshire Library Service: “Exemption from fines, hire charges and reservation fees – means a refugee living in a remote community in North Yorkshire will be able to reserve items located elsewhere, including the limited supply of foreign language material, and will be able to borrow books without fear of fines; Free unlimited IT access – offering a way to stay in touch with families and to access vital support; Introduced new ‘refugee’ borrower categories – to ensure that concessions are applied consistently”
  • West Sussex Library Service: “Ukrainian guests are able to visit the library with their hosts and use the latter’s ID to join as full members.”