By Michelle MaciasThe Washington PostIn recent months, public records requests from libraries around the country have revealed an increasing number of library patrons who say they no longer use their library cards.
Many library patrons say they are paying a higher price for library services, like online access and access to books that have been out of print for years, according to documents and interviews with library staff and library patrons that have become public in recent months.
Some patrons say the costs have skyrocketed in recent years, when their libraries have closed or been forced to cut services.
And some say the library is no longer providing the services they were used to, and are using the money to pay for more personal expenses.
Public records requests show the number of patrons who have written to the RFFB, the federal agency charged with protecting the privacy of Americans, has more than tripled in the past three years.
Over the same period, the number has dropped about a third, according a review of public records requested by The Washington Post.
Library officials say the RFAB is handling about two-thirds of the requests.
They say they need to expand its reach and have already spent tens of millions of dollars to build out their digital collections.
And they say libraries have become the target of the rising number of complaints.
They said they’ve seen a spike in calls about the library card over the past several months, as customers have started to question the service they’ve received, or have received a bad review from a former patron.
Some have accused the RFTB of not keeping the public in the loop, and the RFB says it has no idea how many complaints are filed.
A few have also criticized the RFSB, accusing it of not being responsive to them or their requests for information.
In the first two months of this year, the RFEB responded to about 100 complaints from library users, according the RFSC, a nonprofit group that promotes library and public access.
In January, it received about 140 complaints, compared with about 130 in the same time period in 2017.
Library patrons and library staff say they’re struggling to keep up with the demand for information, and that they are also frustrated by the lack of a system to respond to complaints.
And that, in turn, has led some to question whether libraries should be regulated in the first place.
The RFAW says libraries should have the power to require that libraries do certain things, like provide access to electronic records and to take down materials deemed objectionable by the customer.
It also says libraries must follow the letter of the law.RFPB spokeswoman Lisa Lissner said she doesn’t have a specific number for the number, but said libraries are required to do things like provide copies of receipts for patrons who don’t return their library card.
Library staff are working on a new digital collection management system to ensure the right information is available and accurate, Lissners said.
But she said she hopes it will be ready by March, when library patrons will be able to request it.
And the RFOB, which oversees the RFI program that gives libraries an option to receive public records under the Freedom of Information Act, has said it wants to expand the scope of what is required to comply with the law, and has proposed that libraries be required to turn over all documents to the federal government in response to the complaints they receive.
It’s unclear whether the RFM will be part of that effort, or whether it will continue to operate under its current name, the Public Records and Government Accountability Act, the agency says.
The Federal Library of Congress is a branch of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.