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Public libraries offer many services to their communities. One of the more unique services available to some patrons via their library is U.S. passport application acceptance. Starting in 2006, Poquoson Public Library partnered with the U.S. Department of State to become one of the first public libraries in Virginia to begin offering passport acceptance service.  The library director saw an opportunity for the library to offer a service that was not available within the city.  By offering passport service, it also gave the library an additional opportunity to promote our travel collections such as travel guides, language resources, and foreign history.

The library is a perfect place to get a passport, as it is an inviting, cheerful and kid friendly environment. The Poquoson Public Library accepts passport applications by appointment in the evenings and on weekends, which is convenient for the public as they do not need to take off work or have kids miss school. The State Department also appreciates these hours since they do not conflict with other government agencies, like the Post Office, that may offer the service in the locality.

To be able to process passport applications the library has to be certified by the State Department as a passport facility and staff must pass training to become passport acceptance agents. Recertification must be completed annually. Our library hired a dedicated part-time passport staff person and trained several other staff members as agents to assist when demand is high.  All library staff have some hand in the passport service as they book appointments, provide the correct forms for new applications and renewals, and also answer questions. When making appointments, staff screen the caller to determine if they qualify for a passport renewal as we only do new passport applications not renewals. After determining that the caller needs an appointment, the staff explain which documentation and forms they must bring in to make sure the appointment goes smoothly.

The passport application process consists of checking that an application is complete and mistake free, verifying identity  via the provided documentation, and accepting payment. We receive a processing fee for each passport accepted.  The library is responsible for mailing and tracking the application to its final destination.  Over the last 17 years, our library has accepted over 27,800 applications.  In the fall of 2023, we began offering a photo service to increase efficiency of appointments and provide an additional revenue stream.  With this additional revenue, our library was able to go fine free which in turn increased community accessibility to the library’s collection.

Offering the passport service benefits the community and library in many ways.  The service brings in community members that have never used the library before. Once people come in for the appointment and realize all that the library offers, they want to get a library card. It helps to build community support by making the library more visible and shows all the resources that we offer such as e-books, books, DVDs, free classes and events. It also adds income to the budget which increases the library’s importance as a city department!

Amy Blow, Adult Services Librarian, Poquoson Public Library

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