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No government-issued ID? Can't access city services? A Dallas library card may be in your future

A Dallas Public Library Card next to a stack of books and a pen.
Photo Illustration by Alejandra Martinez
Dallas residents who have difficulty getting a government issued ID may soon be able to use their library cards instead to access city services.

Dallas will soon roll out a pilot program that will let residents who may have difficulty getting a government-issued ID use their library cards instead.

Dallas Public Library leaders and members of the Texas Organizing Project say this will help make it easier for people to receive health services, banking and workforce opportunities – and it will increase digital equity.

“We often forget just how much we rely on an ID to go about our daily lives. From paying our utility bills, getting our kids to school, buying medicine at a pharmacy, those are daily things that we do, and we require an ID for it,” said Erika Cerrillo, a TOP Dallas immigrant justice campaign organizer.

Cerrillo said the “enhanced library card” would help many groups that frequently have difficulty getting the help they need: undocumented people, the formerly incarcerated and people experiencing homelessness.

"I'm in support of this 110% ,” said council member Casey Thomas. “And I think the value of someone who doesn't have access to any form of ID far exceeds any dollar amount. This is critically important to individuals who are Spanish speaking only and who are from the immigrant community.”

Council members showed full support at a meeting Tuesday for a pilot program that will begin in five locations: J. Erik Jonsson Central Library and four other branches.

“The library is already considered a trusted institution in the city, and we will be able to utilize this in many ways to have people gain access to this enhanced library card," Dallas Libraries Director Jo Giudice said.

The new library card would not be a valid Texas state ID, but Giudice said she hopes the card will be accepted as a valid form of identification within city departments like the Dallas Police Department and city partners like Dallas Independent School District.

She said she would like the program to be adopted citywide.

The card will show the recipient’s photo, name, address, date of birth and phone number. And will be available to adults only.

Other Texas cities, including San Marcos, Houston and San Antonio, are already using library cards this way.

"I believe that is a positive also for our unsheltered population. A huge part of what we can do as a city with our unsheltered population is help restore normalcy and dignity. ID cards is one very small step to dignity,” council member Adam Bazaldua said.

The pilot program will cost $4,800 that will come from the library’s existing funding.

Giudice said the next step is to train staff, and they plan to start the rollout in the summer.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member for KERA News. Email Alejandra at You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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Alejandra Martinez is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). She's covering the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities and the city of Dallas.