AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin Public Library's enhanced library cards have been a success since they were launched in early May. Over 550 cards have been given out since the launch, mostly benefitting Austin's vulnerable communities.
"The demand has been overwhelming," Austin City Councilmember Vanessa Fuentes (District 2) said.
The pilot program was started to help underserved communities get a photo ID. It's especially helpful for immigrants who recently entered the U.S, those who may not have a birth certificate and those who are experiencing homelessness.
"These are populations that are most served by the enhanced library card," Fuentes said. "But it's available to anyone and everyone who's interested."
Austin's seniors also benefit from a program like this.
"We have found our most vulnerable struggle with getting a valid form of identification," Fuentes added. "There's also long lines right now at the DMV. So, for folks who need ... to have a photo ID available, this is an easy, accessible way."
The City of Austin is already accepting the library cards as a valid form of ID.
"Think of it as a municipal ID card, but through our library system," Fuentes said. "[The] Austin Police [Department] is also accepting it as a valid form of ID ... Austin Energy ... as well."
Fuentes said the City is also in conversations with Central Health, Capital Metro and Credit Union about accepting the cards as valid forms of ID.
"It's about making services more accessible and easier to get to," she said.
In an email, a spokesperson for the Austin Public Library said the enhanced library cards will soon be delivered straight to some residents front doors.
"APL's pop-up library van is in the process of being equipped for the road and will soon be able to issue enhanced library cards and other library cards at outreach events," the spokesperson told KVUE via email.
Fuentes said the library van effort is about going to areas where the City sees the most need.
"It's about making our government for the people, by the people and of the people," she said.
Another benefit of having an enhanced card is it can be used the same as a standard library card to check out books, hotspots, laptops and more.
Learn more about what you need to get a library card.