Libraries adding patron photos to database

Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — Jasper and Dubois County contractual library cards will officially become more secure once a new checkout policy is instated.

At a meeting Thursday evening, both library boards granted permission to Library Director Rita Douthitt and board attorney Bill Shaneyfelt to draft a new policy stating that all adult patrons — and children, if the parents consent — who sign up for a new library card will have their picture taken and added to a closed library database. Those who renew their cards and have not yet had a picture will also be photographed. Only library assistants who check patrons out will be able to see the photos, which will pop up on the computer screen when a card is scanned.

Currently policy requires that residents who want a card must simply bring in proof of address.

“We’re pretty liberal about what we accept for your ID,” Douthitt said. “It can be your drivers license, it can be a blank check, it can be a utility receipt, a letter that has come through the mail addressed to you.”

Douthitt said the library has been testing the policy for a month or two but have received some objections, mostly from people who felt unready to have their pictures taken on that day or from those who doubt the need for so much security. Douthitt explained that the photographs will not be published anywhere, and library staff can work with anyone who wishes to return at a later date for a picture.

Board President Bill Hewitt said patrons should remember that many activities require picture ID, and checking out books from the library should be no different.

“I’ve worked the polls where the people come in and automatically present their driver’s license to vote,” he said.

The new policy is meant to protect both the library and patrons.

“It protects you, because that prevents somebody else from using your card checking out a slew of materials and not bringing them back, because if that happens, we’re coming to you,” Douthitt said. “That’s even if you loan your card to somebody else. If they have your card with your permission, if they don’t return those things, we’re still coming to you.”

Shaneyfelt added during the meeting that the photo ID also helps the library identify exactly which community member is in possession of materials so the library can easily retrieve them if they are not returned in the proper time. All four libraries have been dealing recently with a large amount of lost books, DVDs, audiotapes and CDs. In December, the boards approved asking Shaneyfelt to begin filing lawsuits against patrons who have not responded to queries from the library’s collection agency about overdue materials. Those patrons receive several mailed notifications requesting that they return the books or movies, and if they fail to do so, a case will be filed in small claims court.

Douthitt said a first round of 25 to 30 small claims court cases is set for early June, but already several community members who received letters have begun returning their books to avoid paying court costs.

As of the beginning of the year, the total overdue fines reached more than $55,000 at the Jasper library, $5,000 at Ferdinand Branch Library, between $2,000 and $3,000 at the Dubois branch and about $200 at Birdseye.

Douthitt hopes having this additional form of identification will help alleviate that problem.

“Because of the overdue (materials) and the issue of taking people to small claims court and so many people saying, ‘I didn’t check that out,’ now, we’ve got your picture,” she said. “We can say it was checked out on your card and that’s your picture.”

Douthitt added that anyone who received a warning letter in the mail is encouraged to return any materials they can locate.

Contact Claire Moorman at

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