Late last week, a new bill was introduced granting library cards to every K-12 student in the state.
Student Success cards for all K-12 students
Senate Bill 1025, authored by Senator Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana), would give students a ‘student success card’ for their respective library district. The proposed law would be active for five years pending renewal. SB 1025, also known as the California Student Success Act, would also have libraries report the number of books and e-books loaned out, specifically looking for increases among the student demographic. The law itself would not be mandatory, as parents and pupils alike can opt out of it.
The bill was largely written to lead students to use the library for free and easy access of materials, as well as signaling to students that the internet may not provide all of the answers or provide the correct information. Senator Umberg’s press release specifically cited a 2016 Pew Research Center poll that found that “a large majority of American adults believed that false and made-up news has caused a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current events”.
Senator Umberg himself noted this.
“In today’s media market, images, headlines, and stories reach people at an astounding speed, so it’s more important than ever that we, as policymakers, ensure that disseminated information is factual and supported by empirical evidence,” said Senator Umberg in a statement. “As we have learned in recent years, the internet is not the best arbiter of truthfulness. We have worked hard to create this information economy. We owe our children the ability to wade through the morass by learning effective research and study skills. Unfettered access to our public library systems is a relatively easy way to accomplish this.”
Similar student library card programs have already been implemented in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. They are joined by a few out of state programs in places like Nashville and Lexington, Kentucky.
Possible problems with a widespread Student Success card program
While many supporters, chiefly among them libraries and librarian groups from around the state, some have expressed reservations for such an expansion of giving library cards to students involuntarily.
“Libraries are so much more nowadays,” noted Stella Lee, a former librarian. “We offer passport renewals now, and public notary services. We have computers and printers so anyone can use the internet and print resumes. Many have 3D printers to use now, and many also serve as de facto places for homeless people to go. We’re also the replacement Blockbuster because of all the DVDs and Blue Rays we lend out. Books and [electronic] books are just a smaller and smaller part.”
“We shouldn’t discourage students from using the library, but we shouldn’t give them cards outright without them knowing the consequences. Fines are something smaller children should learn as they can rack up easily. There has to be limits on internet usage and what is appropriate to search for in libraries. Voice level rules are a big one among teenagers I’ve noticed in recent years. Printer rules are also important, as are copying rules. If they are given a card, there should be a lesson or two about library rules and etiquette to go with it.”
“And I’m not being a ‘crotchety old person’. Adults need a refresher too sometimes. But if more younger people will be coming in, they need to know this, or else librarians will have to explain and reexplain things all day.”
“It’s not a bad law they want. I’m all for more reading. f course I am. But there needs to be a mandatory lesson on rules and etiquette, especially when it comes to using library computers. None of that is in the bill now except for a brief assembly about it, and you need more than that.”
If passed, SB 1025 would be the first state in the nation to grant library cards to all students. SB 1025 is due to be heard in the Senate next month.