The local libraries are doing a FICA on all borrowers

I went into my local library at the Howard Centre earlier this week to take out a couple of books. I don’t go there all that often anymore, because I have so many unread books waiting for me at home that it somehow doesn’t feel quite right. But I do go there often enough to know my way around and to recognise the staff.

As I hand one of the librarians my trusty old and well-used library card, she tells me that all the libraries will shortly be switching over to another system. As a result, all borrowers need to complete and submit a new Membership Application Form, giving all their contact details.

It also “must be accompanied by proof of ID and proof of current home address, e.g. any recent municipal account.”

Ah, you see, that’s the rub.

Proof of ID is fine.

But proof of current home address is quite a different matter.

At my home, we do have a physical postbox, which regularly gets clogged up with junk mail, unsolicited advertising, and assorted flyers. Almost all of it goes straight into the bin without a glance. Life’s too short to plough through all that cr4p. The postbox is also exposed to the elements – the wind whistles through it, and the rain soaks any mail left in there too long. Quite apart from that, our local postie on his bicycle has enough of a heavy load to carry.

As a result, we rent a postbox at the local shopping centre. Not exactly cheap, but we’re pleased to have one (there’s often a waiting list), and it keeps all the mail nice and dry too. And when we go away, we don’t have to worry about burglars checking out the place and saying to themselves, “Look – no one’s cleared out that postbox in days, they aren’t home!”

This means, however, that all official mail arrives at the postal address, not the physical one. The City Council’s rates and taxes account, which is the only regular and official item of mail that reflects our home address in addition to the postal one, is in my husband’s name, not in mine.

Which means that I cannot submit this as proof of MY current home address.

I had the same bloody problem a couple of years ago when the South African banks, as part of the new FICA (Financial Intelligence Centre Act) regulations demanded that I submit proof of residence together with proof of identity. Failure to comply would result in them freezing my accounts on suspicion that I was money-laundering or engaging in other criminal activities. Seriously…

Because of bureaucratic bungling, and several sets of lost and misfiled forms, and because quite frankly the right hand did not know what the left hand was doing, I had to submit and resubmit my FICA documentation to the banks numerous times, until they were finally satisfied.

I guess I still feel rather aggrieved about the hassle they caused to a loyal customer of many years, because I felt a sudden surge of annoyance when the librarian handed me their form. Clearly, it is time to release some lingering resentment… πŸ™‚

When I explained my problem to her, she said apologetically that the only way around it was for my husband to write a formal letter, confirming that I lived with him at our home address. Sigh…

As I was completing the form, I noticed that they require the names of not ONE but TWO referents, not living at the same address as the applicant (me), but nonetheless at a local address. Crazy, isn’t it? Fortunately, Mom agreed to be one, and a dear friend agreed to be the other.

I’m not entirely sure what this means, though – are they going to phone up my referents if I abscond with a library book? I mean, not that I EVER have or ever will – quite the contrary, I frequently GIVE boxes of books to the library – but I guess they’re just trying to protect themselves.

Still, the whole procedure of having to submit proof of identity and proof of residence has churned me up emotionally. Perhaps it’s the Orwellian Big-Brother-is-watching-you thing that bothers me so? There’s already so much personal information, so much data, so many ‘cyerspace cookies’ floating about in the big interconnected world about each of us, that it’s a little freaky.

I don’t particularly like the idea of someone monitoring my activities, my spending tendencies, my reading habits, my preferences, my likes and dislikes…

And yet, I blog. And I published my first book, and I am close to completing my second. Which means that I am willingly sharing parts of myself with family and friends as well as with anonymous strangers.

What a contradiction, hey?

I’d so love to hear your thoughts on that.

6 thoughts on “The local libraries are doing a FICA on all borrowers

  1. That’s a little much for a library card. In the USA requirements for library cards vary from place to place. I had to fill out a form with address to get mine but I’m sure it was not verified. And a PO box would have sufficed, as just a place to send overdue notices. I think your reaction is justified as their policy presents barriers to library use. Everybody should be able to use the library!

    • Thank you, Sally. I thought I might have been overreacting, so it’s nice to hear from someone else that perhaps I wasn’t. πŸ™‚ And yes, I think their policy is going to cause practical difficulties for many people. There are a lot of retired folks living in our neighbourhood, and I remember how they struggled to meet the FICA regulations – every time I was in the bank, I’d see some elderly lady or gentleman, almost in tears with frustration, explaining their predicament to one of the staffers. I think the libraries need to be encouraging people to use and support them, rather than scaring them off, because they have always been the most understaffed, underpaid and underappreciated government service.

  2. I don’t use the library at all so this was news to me. I completely understand why the banks did their FICA thing – which was still something of a schlep for me even without the sort of complications you experienced – fraud is big problem. But it does seem completely over the top for a *library*. My goodness, is book theft such an issue that they have to resort to so much red tape?! C-R-A-Z-Y. You are absolutely correct that it will make things difficult for elderly folk, students and others that aren’t home-owners or bill-payers. They need to be way more flexible and use a bit of common sense. Especially with regards long-standing users of the library. Pointless bureaucracy… grrr!

    • Hi Helen – see Pauline’s comment re people stealing books out of the library! What a dreadful thought! Although I hope the library will be a bit more flexible and treat each case on a one-to-one basis when their borrowers do encounter problems.

  3. I know of a certain library where the staff have to keep the windows closed as people were throwing books out to the other person outside. Makes you think doesn”t it?
    Red tape can go too far. Let us try and make life a bit more simple .LOL

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