Free Library Cards for All!

book money

According to this article, the Calgary Public Library is no longer charging fees for library cards. This is confirmed on the CPL’s About Us page. Congratualtions, residents of Calgary!

…wait. There was a fee just to get a library card?

Turns out, in Alberta and parts of Quebec it is acceptable to charge patrons a fee just to a get a library card. If you’re as shocked as I am, you are understanding this correctly: users in the most wealthy province in the country (Alberta) must pay a fee even for the most basic service of borrowing a book. One can logically assume this means they can’t access the internet without a library card number. Some libraries offer temporary use cards, but the patron has to request and be granted one. Limiting patrons this way is particularly troubling now that the Government of Canada documents are all online and citizens without computers are directed to their public library for access.

The Canadian Library Association (CLA) has a statement on intellectual freedom that demands all libraries uphold the fundamental right of all Canadians “to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity”. They also state that “it is the responsibility of libraries to guarentee and facilitate acces to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity”. The Library Association of Alberta (LAA) has a very similar statement from their Intellectual Freedom Committee. With these statement present, the rationale behind charging for a card confounds me.

Now, not all public libraries (and certainly not all librarians) in Alberta choose to charge their patrons this way. Starting in Banff in 2000, libraries started dropping this fee and other libraries are follow suit. The Edmonton Public Library, for example, began providing free access to all users over a year ago. That and their Spread the Words campaign make them a beacon of librarianship. In fact, the Edmonton Public Library does a lot of things right, earning them the John Cotton Dana (JCD) Library Public Relations Award in from the ALA 2011 and Library of the Year 2014 from Library Journal and Gale Cengage Learning.

I’m thrilled to hear the Calgary Public Library is no longer charging patrons for access to their collection. Their new Central Library is due to open in 2018 and I hope patrons rush in, each bearing or requesting a free library card.

Pic by me.


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