During my time as the Head of Popular Materials at the Ela Area Public Library, I oversaw and managed passport service. I also oversaw a significant increase in this service, to the point where a big part of my mission became recruiting area libraries to get on board.
Why? Mainly because people need it so desperately but there are many reasons to add passport service to your community. Simply put, the post office is no longer able to maintain it's place as the nearly sole provider of this service. Their severe budget cuts impacts front-line staffing the most and those front-line workers are the ones who process passports. So they need our help.
Also it helps you bring difficult to reach populations into the library, often those who need the library the most, like immigrants, new citizens, or people who may not be citizens but their children are. Sometimes these patrons come from countries where a public library system may not exist, so this is an opportunity! You bring people in for passport service but also introduce them to all the library offers - ESL classes, voter registration, lifelong learning, programs, books, etc. And considering recent events, introducing new Americans to a welcoming, inclusive community is more important than ever.
Passports also helps to bring in people who think they don’t need the library - people who generally buy things and have the kind of disposable income that enables them to travel. These people frequently don’t even know what the library does anymore. Passport service brings value to those people and also helps educate them about all the things they can do at the library beyond their preconceived notions.
Is equity a part of your mission as an organization? Then providing this service is vital. Most facilities, like a local clerk offices or post offices, offer extremely limited hours that only people privileged enough to have paid time off can afford. Weekdays during work hours and appointment only. Someone with multiple jobs and no paid time off cannot come in Monday through Thursday between 9am and 1pm, in addition to the hassle of getting their children out of school for the day. For working families on a limited income, this can have a major impact on their lives. Now I don’t know the hours of all of your libraries but I’m willing to bet you have a least a few evenings where you’re open and at least one of the weekend days. This is why your patrons and the State Department needs you to add passport service. Nights and weekends, which provides equitable access to this important citizen service.
The increase in foot traffic has a positive ripple effect on the other stats throughout the library. The Ela Library has seen an increase in the following stats: passive programs and crafts, drop in programs, library card holders, registered cards from other libraries, circulation, notary services, voter registration, and a record breaking door count. And to top it off, there is a financial benefit to being a passport processing facility as well. Currently, the Library makes $25 per application. Considering that we processed 7,493 passports last year? Well, I'll let you do the math on that.
So if all of this sounds like a service you're interested in adding, here are some useful resources for you: