Dover Public Library passport office is the only one of its kind in the state, has weekend hours.
A new service in the city should bring a lot more convenience to residents who want to do some traveling.
Dover’s second passport application office opened April 24 in the Dover Public Library, city Library Director Margie Cyr said. The original passport office, in the post office, will remain, but the library can be open later and on weekends to make it easier to apply for passports.
“It’s an opportunity for families to come in and apply without taking children out of school or the parents having to take time off from work,” Cyr said.
The office is a one-year pilot program and may become permanent if it proves successful, she said.
The idea to open a passport application acceptance center in a public library is not new, she said. Former City Manager Tony DePrima was interested in the idea several years ago as other U.S. cities came on board. There had been a passport office in her former library in New Jersey, Cyr said.
Although the U.S. Department of State had temporarily closed the window on new library passport offices, once that possibility opened again Sen. Chris Coons urged the Delaware Division of Libraries to take advantage of the opportunity. Only Dover’s library signed up for the program.
“We did it because I had experience with it before and I knew the city of Dover was interested in the service,” Cyr said.
It took about nine months to process the paperwork and to hire two clerks, U.S. Army retiree Ray Cunningham and U.S. Air Force veteran Frank Coppola.
“I’ve been retired for four years and I was looking for something interesting to do,” Coppola said. He worked more than 37 years as a jet engine aircraft mechanic, as a member of the Air Force and as a Department of Defense civilian.
“Passport service seemed like it would be interesting work,” he said.
Cunningham, who spent four years as an electronics repairman and then almost two decades as an Army recruiter, echoed Coppola’s comments.
“I’ve been retired four years also,” he said. “I wanted to find something to give back and assist the community. This looks like it will do that.”
Both men have training to be certified passport agents.
Coppola and Cunningham will work out of a tiny office upstairs in the Dover Public Library’s administration section for their first few weeks while an office is built in the lobby. They’re working by appointment until the downstairs office is finished sometime in early May.
After that, they’ll take walk-ins and appointments at the center, which will be open six days a week, closed Fridays.
Cunningham and Coppola will offer all of the standard services, including applications for passport books and passport cards and expedited and overnight delivery service.
They will have equipment to take the necessary photos.
Customers will pay normal rates plus a fee collected by the library. Of that, 75 percent will support the library and the other 25 percent will go to the city’s general fund. Coppola and Cunningham are paid by the library.
Even with an additional fee, the advantage they’ll have over the application center at the U.S Post Office next door should appeal not just to Delawareans, Cyr said.
“The post office offers this service, but their hours are limited and they have things they do in addition to passports,” she said. “I think this is going to be big, very big, and it will appeal to people from all over the tri-state area.”