Sen. Umberg seeks free library cards for students

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Sen. Tom Umberg

Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana) has reintroduced the California Student Success Act, Senate Bill (SB) 34, which would create universal access to local libraries for all public K-12 students in California, his office announced this week.

Students need reliable access to accurate information to succeed in an academic environment that includes distance learning. SB 34 helps do this by building on successful federal and local programs that have equipped students with local library cards and immediate access to online and physical resources.

“A local library card is a passport to a world of new ideas and perspectives, a journey towards a brighter future. Every student in California should have access to this enriching experience, without costs or fees existing as a barrier to entry,” said Senator Umberg. “Two of California’s greatest public programs — our K-12 public school system and our public library system — must work together to guide students through this pandemic and our ongoing discourse over ‘fake news.’”

Public libraries in California provide free and easy access to information, ideas, books, and technology that can help enrich, educate, and empower the lives of every individual. A number of California libraries already work together with school districts to ensure students get the maximum amount of access to the tools they need to learn and grow.

The Santa Ana Unified School District, in Sen. Umberg’s district, partners with the Santa Ana Public Library, to activate library accounts for each of their students. This program ensures that children studying during quarantine have access to online databases and research materials, e-books and audiobooks. Since 2016, the Los Angeles Unified School District has worked with the City of Los Angeles’ Board of Library Commissioners to provide very student with a Student Success Library Card. As a result, the second largest school district in the nation has provided free library cards to 800,000 students in California. Similar programs have also been implemented in Nashville, Tennessee; Lexington, Kentucky, and Santa Barbara.

“Wherever you are, whoever you, however old you are, every student benefits from having a public library card. It’s a key not just to success in school but in life,” said Greg Lucas, California State Librarian.

“As Sen. Umberg says, putting a library card into every student’s hands not only helps close the opportunity gap but — for a modest investment of mostly time and energy – returns huge dividends in helping California’s next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs achieve their goals.”

SB 34 will likely be heard in policy committees the California State Senate in mid/late March.