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County Library Cancels Cards for Homeless Kids

According to the Associated Press, the Porter County (Indiana) Public Library System has revised its access policies with respect to homeless people.

Changes were enacted May 10th in response to reported material losses worth $4,000, attributed to temporary shelter residents. Assistant director James Cline considers the new policies “fiscally responsible to the taxpayers.”

Homeless children will not be allowed to check out material from [the] northwestern Indiana library system, which also has limited adults living in shelters to taking out three books at a time …

The policy allows adults living in shelters to receive a renewable library card on a three-month basis. Children 17 and under who live in the shelters will not be eligible for a library card …

Rachel Jamieson, 26, and her three children have been living at Spring Valley [Shelter] the last week and a half as they seek permanent housing. She called the policy unfair.

“I don’t think we should be responsible for other people’s mistakes. It doesn’t mean everybody is like that,” she said.

While the educational rights of homeless children are well established, public libraries are not apparently governed by this legal framework (i.e. the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act).

The HHPTF encourages Porter County officials to review the work of groups like the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) and study their materials.

A good place to start? “Homeless Education: An Introduction to the Issues” (PDF).

UPDATE: According to American Libraries, on June 21 the Porter County Library board voted to rescind its problematic access policy.

“Yes, we did jump and made conclusions,” board President Scott Falk said, according to the June 22 Gary Post-Tribune ... Assistant Director James Cline, in turn, apologized to shelter representatives at the meeting for not consulting with them first.

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