Naomi Flonnory loved going to the library as a little kid.
“I could open a book, and although we couldn’t travel, we could read about it,” she told the City Council on Tuesday. “The library is more than just books. It’s a place of comfort.”
Flonnory recounted her relationship to public libraries as a kid, and her use of the Victoria Public Library as a parent, in front of elected officials who were weighing possible changes to the library’s operations and accessibility.
Council member Jeff Bauknight suggested multiple steps the library could take to reduce the number of lost materials and asked council members for feedback.
Most council members appeared unwilling to make major changes to the library’s operations.
Bauknight asked what could be done to encourage habitually tardy patrons to return library materials and pay accrued fines. He asked whether it would be possible to have a method of payment on file for library users who didn’t return materials after 28 days.
Flonnory and other residents who spoke during citizens communication said storing credit or debit card data would make the library less accessible.
“With that extra rule, it’s almost like everyone can’t come,” Flonnory said.
Bauknight also suggested requiring everyone who entered the library to swipe in with a library card, asked about the library’s code of conduct and floated the idea of charging a fee for internet access for people who don’t live in Victoria or nearby counties.
Council members discussed the range of suggestions with the library’s director, Dayna Williams- Capone. Ultimately, the Council decided to revisit the library’s system for contacting users with overdue materials, which spans 28 days. Williams-Capone also said the library could look into displaying the facility’s code of conduct more prominently in the building. But the body decided against moving forward on the other suggestions.
Council member Tom Halepaska said the cost of making some of the changes could eclipse the costs that could be regained through better collection of fees and fines. The value of lost and late materials is estimated to be one-tenth of 1 percent of the value of the library’s total inventory, according to Mayor Paul Polasek’s analysis of library data.
After the council’s discussion, multiple residents implored council members during public comment to keep the library open and accessible.
Christina Snow, 30, gave emotional testimony about her years living homeless in San Antonio and her desire to keep public libraries accessible to everyone, even those who might not have identification documents needed to get a library card.
“How do you feel about people saying you’re discriminating against homeless people because a library card requires an address?” Snow asked Bauknight.
To get a card with the Victoria Public Library, an applicant must show a valid government ID with a current address or government photo ID accompanied with a printed check or utility bill, according to the library’s website.
“I didn’t say that I was restricting access to anybody,” Bauknight said. “I understand and empathize that people needed to go there and cool down when it’s hot outside, and when it’s cold outside, they might need to warm up. That’s not a problem. What is an issue is if they’re sleeping, being disruptive.”
The council member added that he’d received complaints about the behavior of some people in the library.
After the meeting, Bauknight said he regretted that some residents thought he was trying to limit access to the library for people who are homeless. He said he wanted the Council to discuss new ideas for how to improve the library.
Snow spoke with Bauknight again after the meeting and said they ended on a good note.
“He definitely heard what we had to say,” Snow said.