Happy New Year

Since the New Year is always a time for endings and beginnings, I thought I’d share an image I snapped recently at the Monroe County Public Library here in Bloomington, Indiana.  It’s of two old library check-out cards — the type that, when I was young, used to be slipped into the front covers of books and stamped with due dates.

My favorite part has to be the warning about a ten cent penalty in the event the patron loses the check-out slip. It’s also intriguing to see that the latest due date appearing on the top card is from 1982. I wonder if it was from an unpopular book, or if the MCPL began computerizing around then. I should have asked.

If you’re wondering where I found these cards, the answer may come as something of a disappointment. They were in the children’s room, where they were being used as scrap paper for youngsters to practice writing. (At least they hadn’t been thrown away, I suppose.) I’m not much of a nostalgic, yet some part of me still wishes they’d been on display showing visitors — especially those raised in the computer age — the history of libraries and librarianship. It’s interesting to think about how a record keeping device that was once important enough to carry a penalty for loss, however small, is now discarded on purpose. Change isn’t inevitable, but it sure is relentless.

Happy New Year, everyone, and I’ll see you again early in 2011 with some exciting news.

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2 comments

  1. bill olbrich says:

    Library circulation cards once included the borrower’s name as well as the “date due” stamp. Entire audiences over time were lost when these cards were replaced with automated slips such as you describe. When I was in High School, I would not take a book out of the library unless names of certain Juniors and Seniors were not on the cards. The circulation privacy “issue” did not appear until the Vietnam War when some law enforcement officials sought the names of students who borrowed books thought subversive or dangerous. Rumor had it that several librarians lost their jobs for not cooperating with these law enforcement officials. Alas, no good writing on that time exists, as far as I know.

    • Ted Striphas says:

      Thanks so much for the comment, Bill. Very interesting to hear more about the history of these cards. It’s remarkable to think about how the Vietnam War reverberated so deeply into the world of books. I guess you can never underestimate how much war affects culture.

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