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Worcester Public Library Changes Borrowing Policy

American Libraries Online reported the positive news that Worcester (Mass.) Public Library has implemented a new policy to ensure equal access for homeless patrons and others without permanent address.

Worcester Head Librarian Penelope Johnson said in the Telegram and Gazette that everyone who has a library card will be treated equally; they can take out two items during their first visit and up to 50 thereafter. Homeless patrons or patrons living in shelters will be mailed a postcard, which they can bring back with them to the library as proof that they can receive mail.

As the article indicates, the lawsuit filed against the library has not yet been resolved. And despite the library’s insistence about poor book return rates among low-income patrons, no borrowing statistics have ever been made public.

The policy change is not so much a “win” for homeless people—who should not have been discriminated against in the first place—but more a case study of the disconnect between a library and the needs of low-income citizens.

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