How to get an ID without ID? The San Marcos library offers a path


SAN MARCOS – From a small red boardroom behind piles of non-fiction, the San Marcos Public Library takes on one of the government’s thorniest Catch-22s:

How do you get photo ID if you don’t already have one?

It’s not a simple puzzle for people like Suzanne Duggins, whose expired Arkansas driver’s license was stolen earlier this year, or for Omar LeRoi King II, who was unable to obtain a license. ID in good standing for years because of a maddening mistake on his birth certificate. .

I met them both this week as they brought thick files of personal papers to the San Marcos library in the red meeting room where new library cards are issued. Everyone left with a new “improved” library card, with their photo, address and date of birth.

One piece of photo identification issued by a government agency.

“It helps a lot,” King told me, holding his new ID card, still warm from the printer. “Literally anything an adult can do I couldn’t do” due to lack of ID.

The San Marcos Public Library is among the first in the state to offer photo ID cards, and I hope Austin and other communities are paying attention. (Austin briefly considered its own identification program in 2014, but members of the new 10-1 city council didn’t consider it a priority in their first budget season.)

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Director of Public Services Samantha Gordano creates an improved library card at the San Marcos Public Library on Monday.  The library has launched a new program to provide enhanced library cards that can serve as government-issued photo ID for certain purposes.  These cards are intended to help people who may have difficulty obtaining other photo IDs because they are homeless, undocumented, or face other barriers.

Champions of the San Marcos program believe the enhanced library card may be a lifeline for some in need. I am for it. But the success of the program will depend on whether other organizations accept the library identifier as a verified and verifiable document.

I know what you are thinking. But no, you can’t use a library card, even with a photo, to vote in Texas. You also cannot use it to buy beer. Supporters hope the enhanced library card, presented with other materials, can help people establish their identity in other situations, such as applying for a job or rental assistance.

“We cannot guarantee that another place will accept it,” the library’s public services manager, Samantha Gordano, told me on Monday afternoon. “But we are giving them another form of identity to help bridge the gap.”

It will “change your life”

Mano Amiga, a nonprofit organization providing resources to the immigrant community of San Marcos, has asked the library to donate these cards. The group even says they have provided the library with about $ 5,300 for the equipment, including a special printer and software, to create the photo IDs.

Lack of ID “makes it even more difficult for (immigrants) to access resources such as housing, utilities or even to be able to pick up their children from school,” said Nataly Avendano, immigration coordinator at Mano Amiga, at a press conference Last week.

I hadn’t even thought about it until she said it, but yes you have to show photo ID at reception just to pick up your child early from school. Where does that leave parents without ID?

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Advocates say the card could help homeless people as well. In the 2019 San Marcos One-Time Tally, a day-long field survey of the homeless, “one of the things we saw most often was the need for ID,” Hannah Durrance , president of the HOME Central Texas, said at the press conference. “The fact that our library will now make this available is going to be life changing for some of these people.”

Identification means that people can apply for social services. Identification means that if they can muster enough money, they can get a hotel room on a freezing night.

How to be patented?

Typically, you must show some state-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, to get a library card.

But the San Marcos library offers a generous alternative: provide another document with your photo on it, such as a gym club card, school ID, inmate ID, or Mexican consular matrícula card. Then provide two more documents with your name and address, such as a utility bill, pay stub, or medical record.

San Marcos hasn’t reinvented the wheel here. San Antonio Public Library started a similar program This year, provide a template to find out how a library can verify a person’s identity with more documents than the driver’s license office accepts.

Duggins was able to find a photocopy of his expired (and now stolen) Arkansas license. That, along with his Social Security papers and a letter from the AAA, verified his identity.

King brought a copy of his recent high school transcript, which included a tiny but clear photo of him. He also presented his pay stubs and a civil court document of his efforts to legally establish his own name. Following a paperwork incident at the military hospital where King was born, his birth certificate identified him only as an “infant” with his mother’s maiden name, creating a bureaucratic knot that he’s been trying to untie for years.

Duggins hopes she can use the card to make an appointment with a new doctor. King hopes to open a bank account, among other things. Both saw the library card as a useful tool for other tasks while continuing the more laborious process of obtaining state-issued identification.

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Getting a driver’s license is easy if you have the right documents, such as your birth certificate and a utility bill, in a drawer at home. But not everyone does. And often the people who write the rules don’t have the lived experience of people like Duggins or King. They don’t realize what types of roadblocks can appear.

This is what makes the San Marcos Library experiment worth watching: it aims to provide ID that means something, using the types of documents people actually have.

“Aw, that’s cool,” Duggins said as the librarian gave her something she hadn’t had in almost a year, photo ID. “I just want to give you a hug.”

Grumet is the columnist for Statesman’s Metro. his chronicle, ATX in context, contains his opinions. Share yours via email at [email protected] or via Twitter at @bgrumet.

Obtain your ID

The San Marcos Public Library offers free library cards, with or without a photo, to any resident of Hays County who provides the appropriate documentation. Appointments are required for an enhanced library card (photo ID). Call (512) 393-8200.


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