The last time I wrote about a library in Alabama, I was informed by numerous irate readers that Alabama is a wonderful state full of delightful people and that it “has made great changes since the ‘stand in the schoolhouse door.’”
Now that a federal judge has stopped part of the recent immigration law, teachers for the time being won’t have to stand in the schoolhouse door asking for birth certificates. So I guess there really have been lots of changes.
Since Alabama is such a paradise of tolerance and good will, I was very surprised to read this article: Library card requires proof of citizenship at North Shelby.
It discusses the discrepancy between the North Shelby Library’s dedication to serving all the people who live or work in North Shelby and the reality now that illegal immigrants – who apparently pick most of the crops in Alabama – are enemy number one.
Serving all the residents and workers in an area is pretty typical for public libraries, and a very nice thing, too. It also complies with the ALA’s longstanding position on equity of access to information. Equal access to information is also a good thing.
Equal access to information isn’t the library’s policy anymore, though. From the article:
Until the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, or HB56, went into effect Sept. 1, anyone who lived in the district could get a library card simply by showing a picture identification with proof of residency, such as a driver’s license or utility bill. People who work in Shelby County can bring in a paycheck stub, for example. Those who do not live in the county can pay a $30 annual fee.
All of those categories are still available but now all new patrons must present proof of legal residency as well.
Apparently, this is because “a library card is considered a contract between an individual and the library” and the “new law requires businesses to be certain that the individual is in the United States legally, through a valid driver license or nondriver ID card, a valid passport or an unexpired visa.”
All you librarians who think libraries should act more like businesses, I hope you’re happy!
To be fair, people without proof of legal residency can still enter the library and use the library’s resources onsite.
How likely that will be given that the new Alabama law “requires a law enforcement officer to make a reasonable attempt, when practicable, to determine the citizenship and immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested when reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.”
I have no idea what a “reasonable suspicion” about that would be, but the good thing is it’s wide open for interpretation by the police, who can pretty much stop anyone they please and ask for identification.
So while the library allows everyone, card and non-card holder alike, to use the library and even use the public computers, the law would probably keep illegal and a lot of legal immigrants away from such public places, lest they be harassed by police yelling “Papieren! Schnell!” at anyone who doesn’t look sufficiently “American.”
The new barrier to access that the library implemented makes it clear enough to immigrants that they’re not welcome at the library or any other public place. If you have a stable, proven address and still can’t get a library card, they library isn’t the place for you.
The radical bits of the ALA Council are always looking for something to protest. This violation of a core library value would seem like an appropriate thing. Or maybe those librarians occupying Wall Street could go occupy North Shelby as well.