Erica Christianson is the Assistant Director of the Ela Area Public Library and has been processing passports for as long as the library has provided the service - almost 12 years.
Sandra Victor is the Popular Materials Supervisor at the Ela Library and has been processing passports for 8 years.
And I just recently became the Learning & Development Coordinator at the Skokie Public Library but before that, I was the Head of Popular Materials at Ela Library and managed passport service for three years.
There are MANY reasons to do passports, depending on the community you serve. I’m going to go over what I think are some of the more universal reasons, which I’ve listed here.
People who think they do not need the library. Equity - immigrant populations, working families - these are the people who need you to do this. YAY stats!
Money - revenue aspect Go over specifics Numbers - post office is gone
Post office cannot do it anymore. Underfunded, less staff, shrinking budgets.
This limits hours severely for the people who need it most.
Passports helps bring in what we frequently refer to as “difficult to reach populations”. For me this falls into a few categories. One of those is people who think they may 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 but they pay for it in the property taxes. Passport brings value to those people and also helps educate them about all the things that can do at the library.
Another difficult to reach population that the services brings in our naturalized citizens and immigrants. These are people who are recent Americans or they might not be citizens but their children are.
So we like to refer to passports as being a part of our citizen services, so people can register to vote and get a library card while they are at the library. We also offer notary service and ESL classes in their category.
These people very possibly come from countries where a public library system may not exist - this is an opportunity! We often go to whole pre-conferences on how to reach this exact population and I will save you some time. Do you want to know what will bring this population into the library? Passports!
This also brings in working families due to our hours and accessibility. Someone with multiple jobs and no paid time off cannot come in Monday through Thursday between 9am and 1pm, which is commonly the hours for many other facilities. Nights and weekends!!
Is equity a part of your mission as a library? Then providing this service is vital. Most other facilities offer limited hours that only people privileged enough to have PTO can afford. Weekdays during work hours, appointment only.
Someone with multiple jobs and no paid time off cannot come in Monday through Thursday between 9am and 1pm. Now I don’t know the hours of all of your libraries but I’m willing to be 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!!
The increase in passports has had a positive ripple effect on the other stats throughout the library, which means more people through the door and more usage.
And of course, there’s the money. We really can’t talk about passports without going over the fact that depending on how you run your passport service, it can be an excellent source of alternative revenue.
Ultimately passport service can be an excellent source of alternative revenue.
If you want that, then think a lot of what staff you want to process and how much are you paying them hourly? We have 14 certified passport agents and all of them have other duties above and beyond passports, except for one whose only job is to come in a help out w/ passports on the weekend. In order to process passports at our Information Desk, we add one extra person per shift. So our desk would normally require two people and because of passports, we staff three people. We will go over more about the staffing later but this is part of the way we make money off of passports.
We talked a lot about how we could show you
Website with links to state dept. (LINK TO ELA WEBSITE??) Phone Message Staff delivers consistent information Information Bookmark Handout/Download Desk Sign (PHOTO) Check-In Process/Waitlist Bookmark Handout/Download
Online Training for New AgentsAnnual Online RecertificationIn-Person TrainingPARG ManualChicago OfficeState Department Audits
Stamps (Photo)MFC (Photo)Birth Certificate Information VitalChek Lake/Cook County Vital Records Info SheetMeasuring Tape, Black Pens, Staple Remover Sandra’s Supply HandoutsState Department provides all forms needed free of charge
Also need photo of stamps for opposite text
Filing Cabinets (photos)Storage for Library Processing FeesReady ReferenceMiscelleanous Forms
(Need photo for slide)
In February of this year, we conducted a survey of libraries across the nation that provide the service.
13 libraries responded.
This is a picture of the Houston Public Library - one of the libraries that responded to our survey request. When: One thing consistent - evening and weekend availability. How long? Some had been offering the service for a few months, others 10+ years. Most were somewhere in the middle. Who? Number of agents on staff depened on staff size but the average number was 7 agents. Note: some smaller libraries had basically the whole staff certified. Larger libraries, like Houston, tend to have an office and staff dedicated to the service. About half use professional staff and half use clerks or pages. Most had a mix of both. Department - programming, adult services, administration, Information, Circulation, Reference/Adult Services, and a few had their own department. Where? This varied significantly. Some have a repurposed room. Some do it at an existing service desk, like us. Others: programming room, study room, any available table in the library - options! Appointments? A number of the libraries that participated took appointments. But since the state department has made it very clear to us and libraries currently applying that they are not interested in adding more facilities that require appointments, I’m not really going to touch on that. What’s interesting to me is that the libraries that do accept appointments tend to have much smaller numbers and try to accommodate walk ins as well anyways. They also end up having to restrict who can actually take the reservations for patrons to active agents, adding a layer of complexity. I can tell you that hearing about what it takes to go to appointments, made us feel even more confident in our process.
Very simple. But don’t forget to sell yourself! Talk about your advantages! Tips: staffing! Discuss your hours. Sell yourself! Talk about your advantages! Good parking, good location etc.?
State department has made it clear that they are only interested in adding facilities with walk in and nights/weekends.
Ask other libraries applying right now about experience. Niles, Prospect Heights, Glen Ellyn, Itasca Libraries all good options.
General increase on
Passive programs and crafts.
Drop in programs.
Library card holders.
Registered cards from other
Other citizen services.
A bit more about money.
$25 per application (soon to be $35)
What staff will you use?
How many applications would you need to process to break even?
For us - passports pay for themselves and more.
We use staff that also have other duties - not just passports.
We processed 7,493 passports last fiscal year
We made $187,325.
If the fee had been $35? About $265,000!
How we do passport
Yay movie time!