murphy floor 052120DES PLAINES – When Daniel Salgado-Alvarez tried to visit his local library to find new reading material during summer break, he was told he’d have to pay hundreds of dollars in fees to check out a book. Stories like Daniel’s motivated State Senator Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines) to sponsor the Cards 4 Kids Act, which allows low-income students in unincorporated areas to access the resources at their local library without paying nonresident fees.

“During summer break, I couldn’t go to my school’s library, and I couldn’t go to the public one either, because I couldn’t check anything out,” said Daniel. “I wanted to fix that.”

Currently, students living in unincorporated areas are required to pay a fee for a library card from their closest public library. However, students from unincorporated areas tend to come from low-income backgrounds and often can't afford them.

“Especially with schools closed, kids deserve access to the e-books, periodicals and other online resources our libraries have to offer,” said Murphy. “Our students shouldn’t have to pay hundreds of dollars in fees to stay engaged in education while they’re outside the classroom.”

As an upperclassman at Elk Grove High School, Daniel joined classmates Robert Demonte and Linda Puentes to advocate for the Cards 4 Kids Act. Daniel, a resident of Oasis Mobile Home Park in unincorporated Des Plaines, became interested in the project after having been involved in efforts to bring books to mobile home parks in his area over the summer, when school libraries are closed.

Daniel, Robert and Linda approached Murphy with the idea for the Cards 4 Kids Act as part of a project for Robert and Linda’s Sophomore Leadership Class program. Robert says instructor Jim Arey taught the class about inequity in their community, which inspired him to come up with the Cards 4 Kids Act.

“There are kids at our very own school that aren’t getting the same access as the rest of our students. That really just irritated me,” Robert said. “I feel that all students should have equal access and opportunities.”

Arey said the students presented their initiative to the District 214 Executive Board, but administrators were unable to get traction with the local library board. That’s when Arey connected them with Murphy, who brought their idea to the General Assembly.

Murphy’s bill aims to extend library privileges to children residing outside of the municipality in which their local library is located. Students in these areas who meet the poverty income guideline would no longer have to pay a non-resident fee for a library card.

Daniel, who plans to attend Harvard University in the fall, says he hopes the Cards 4 Kids Act will help more kids take advantage of the many helpful services public libraries have to offer.

“Right now, a lot of students have to pay fees that are pretty expensive, especially if you’re living in a mobile home or are living under the poverty line,” said Daniel. “I think it will allow kids to actually have those options and opportunities.”

With schools closed to the COVID-19 outbreak, Murphy says the Cards 4 Kids Act has taken on special urgency.

“Daniel, Robert and Linda showed me that our public libraries provide so many important services—not just books, but also job and college application tools—which could be particularly useful to kids when teachers and guidance counselors are harder to reach,” said Murphy. “But these services have been inaccessible to many kids in Illinois. After speaking to these brilliant and hardworking students, I knew that needed to change.”

House Bill 2096, a local government package which contains the Cards 4 Kids Act, passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support and now awaits the governor’s signature.