LIVERMORE -- People wanting to apply for a new U.S. passport or renew their old one no longer have the option of using the Livermore Civic Center library.
The library's passport service, which was offered for the past 15 years, including evening hours, was canceled last month due to new U.S. State Department guidelines.
Under the new rules, passport clerks can no longer be "temporary" employees -- which is what the library used -- and the city claims it doesn't have the financial means to fund a staffer for the job. People applying for a new passport must appear in person -- renewals can be done online. Tamara LeBeau, director of library services, said the library would like to retain the passport service but had no choice but to cut it.
"We know there's a large need for this service, and we would love to continue to provide it to the community," said LeBeau, who says all city departments are in a "hold-the-line" hiring mode. "The unfortunate reality is that there are many community service needs and only so much funding to go around. The city must make difficult choices in balancing the services provided with remaining fiscally responsible."
LeBeau said the library always used temporary clerks for the passport program, which processed 1,134 applications -- about 95 per month -- in the 2012-2013 fiscal year. She added that the two temporary clerks who handled the passport service have been offered on-call positions at the library.
"Using temporary clerks enabled us to offer the service," said LeBeau. "With big cuts to the library budget over the past few years, our staff is stretched thin. The library was able to preserve passport services due to the efficient staffing model that we employed. However, under the current State Department regulations, we are no longer able to do so."
In order to keep the passport program, the library would have to trim other services, said LeBeau. As the Livermore downtown post office also offers passport service, the library opted to retain funds for its core programs and cut the passport service.
"We didn't want to cut core services if the passport service is available elsewhere in the community," said LeBeau.
Passport service is available at the Livermore Post Office, 220 S. Livermore Ave., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The service is on a first-come, first-served basis -- appointments are not available. The Post Office accepts only the first 14 applicants on any given day, with people sometimes lining up two hours in advance to make the cut, according to an office clerk.
Livermore resident Oona Backers applied for a passport for her 1-year-old daughter at the library on June 24, the day the service closed. She said that due to the popularity of the program, she had to wait more than a month for an evening appointment, which fit well with her work schedule, and was impressed with the service she received.
"We were seen in a comfortable, private room in the library," said Backers, who paid the library a $45 fee that included photos. "The lady was very thorough about going over our paperwork. She also took new photos because the ones we brought didn't meet the specific requirements for passport pictures. I think it was a wonderful community service, especially as it's so difficult to wait in line at the Post Office — especially with a 1-year-old! It's a huge disservice to cut this program."
For information on the Livermore Post Office passport service, call 925-447-5627. For information on passports or to renew online, visit http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english.html. The Pleasanton Post Office at 4300 Black Ave. in that city also offers passport service on a walk-in basis and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Pleasanton office can accommodate about 40 applicants daily.