WOODSTOCK – Brien Cron is many things.
Employee. Techie. College graduate. Homeless man.
He’s the first to admit he’s made his fair share of mistakes. They’ve led him recently to the PADS transitional living home, 14411 Kishwaukee Valley Road in Woodstock. It’s an address that, for about 10 years, has come with the inability to check out books from the local library.
The 41-year-old is speaking out after being denied a library card by the local library – and his voice just might bring about a change.
For years, the Woodstock Public Library has turned away men and women with the address of the PADS transitional home, where the homeless can stay for up to two years.
Library Director Nick Weber said the ban was enacted about 10 years ago after several PADS residents checked out materials, then moved out never to be heard from again.
“We had no recourse for getting our material or any of the fines that were due,” Weber said.
The library has allowed PADS residents to use library books and computers while inside the building, but they can’t check out items.
Cron, who has lived in the transitional home for about a month, works the overnight shift at Brown Printing Co. in Woodstock. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from DeVry University, and he likes to check out coding books to stay up on the latest in the tech world.
But when he provided his ID to get a library card, an attendant saw the address and turned him away, he said.
“It was really embarrassing. I was there, and there are people behind me,” Cron said. “I felt like a second-rate citizen, even though I’m paying my taxes and I’m doing what I got to do here.”
Sarah Kotz, PADS transitional home case manager, said others at the house have had similar experiences.
Weber said the issue was never one of discrimination. Rather, the library was keeping in mind its responsibility toward safeguarding resources paid for by taxpayers.
Since joining the library as director about six months ago, Weber has had on his to-do list a review of existing library policies and procedures.
But given the circumstances – he wasn’t aware of the displeasure of PADS residents until reached for this story – Weber said he’d move up this particular issue. He didn’t like the idea that a couple of people’s actions years ago have banned current PADS residents from checking out materials that ultimately could have a positive effect on their lives, he said.
And he added that he thinks there’s a middle ground. He suggested the library might allow residents of the transitional home to check out a limited number of materials, decreasing the risk for the library and, by extension, taxpayers.
“We thought maybe we could have some sort of limit on what could be checked out at a given time,” Weber said.
Cron maintains the library is at no greater risk of having materials stolen by other Woodstock residents than by those at PADS, but he was encouraged at Weber’s suggestion that a change could be coming.
“That would be better than nothing,” Cron said. “At least people would be able to get their cards and check out a book.”