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I Love My Library Card: A Dual Use Library/Debit Card

by on November 10, 2014

Frederick County (MD) Public Library (FCPL) has found an ingenious way to combine its patrons’ library card with bank debit cards.

FCPL is a pilot site for a newly developed program by SirsiDynix. According to Justin Swain, end user services consultant for SirsiDynix, FCPL was one of the library systems chosen to try the pilot program because of its openness to innovative services. “FCPL stays ahead of the game when it comes to providing new and unique services to their patrons,” says Swain. FCPL initially offered the dual use card just at their main branch but rolled out the program to all locations in the beginning of September.

I Love My Library Card is a Visa® prepaid card that has few additional fees for the cardholder, compared to many of the traditional options out there. Currently, about sixty cards have been given out at FCPL and about a third of the recipients have registered to use the debit side of the program. There’s hope those numbers will expand as the community becomes more aware of the platform.

“Customers have plenty of choices for prepaid debit cards, but this one offers a couple perks. For one, customers know that a portion of their fees are donated back to the library. For two, the card offers ‘Linkable,’ which is a rewards program that allows customers to get special deals from local and national businesses,” says Marie Slaby, FCPL’s interim manager of community and corporate partnerships office.

Swain agrees. He adds that patron privacy is upheld. It is up to library card customers to sign up for the debit card services. Library card information is not shared with the producers of the debit card and vice versa. “We ensure that all of our products comply with the most stringent privacy standards,” says Swain.

A third perk of the card is the involvement of the library with financial literacy programming. The card can be part of a larger lesson on financial responsibility. There are a number of “unbanked” individuals in the country and in Frederick County. Lower fees allow struggling patrons, who may lack the financial resources and knowledge many of us take for granted, to use the card. Also, no credit check is required.

It can be a bit of a challenge to educate library staff on the positives of this program. Although libraries and fundraising often go hand in hand, staff can be reluctant to understand the value of such a card. Slaby says, “Librarians are wary of offering any product that has a cost. We’ve offered things for sale before—t-shirts, used books, tote bags—but never a financial product. We are having to do a lot of education so that librarians know what prepaid debit cards are and how our card compares favorably to others that are available. But librarians often rise to the challenge of learning new roles in their communities.”

Swain says he is working with libraries in Mississippi and Illinois to implement similar programs, with the hope that other library systems will come on board in the future.

For a more in-depth article on this partnership, visit here.

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