Keeping track of library books

I had another reader ask how I keep track of library books. (And thank you for the questions! It's a nice break from coming up with topics on my own.) Since we do use our library quite a bit, possibly vying for the single heaviest used award, I have a little experience with this.

First off, I really, really dislike paying library fines and having to pay to replace books, so I work really hard to keep track of them all. It happens every now and then, but I have a remarkable track record considering I have ~100 books checked out at a time. Every so often I do lose track of one of them and sometimes it's even my fault. Like the time I accidentally mailed a book instead of putting it in the book drop. Yes, I did. It wasn't until the next time that I drove by the drop box that I even realized I had done it. I suddenly had a memory of putting a book in the drop box, except the drop box was a different color. Something didn't seem right. And then I look up and see the mailbox and realized what I had done. Now, wouldn't you think that the postal worker, upon finding a library book (a clearly marked library book) in a mailbox right next to the book return would think, "Oh look, someone mailed a library book by accident. I'll just put it in the drop box"? If you did, you would be wrong. That book never was returned and probably sits in my city's dead letter office to this day. And yes, I paid to replace it.

But I digress.... how do I keep track of all these library books when I'm not busy mailing them? First, I do have a specific place for most of the library books. This spot has taken different forms over the years, from shelves to baskets, but currently it looks like this:

Fancy, huh? The basket we had been using was never big enough and so they were stacked around it anyway. Sometimes you just have to acknowledge what they system actually is. This is all the picture books and sometimes someone's chapter books will make it down as well. In order to maintain some sanity, we try to keep all of our personal picture books upstairs. (Emphasis on try. I know we've accidentally returned books that belong to us before because the library calls me to come and get them if they have our name in them.) Older children's chapter books tend to live in their rooms, but once again, they each usually have a place where they are normally stashed.

Keeping them somewhat contained helps a lot. (Though the little girls do their very, very best to free the contained books and allow them to experience many other rooms of the house. It's probably because of the extended time the little girls spent in their pen that they feel the need to encourage roaming in others.) But by far the biggest key to avoiding fines is the online record system and email notification. Before the library began emailing patrons when their books were coming up on their due dates, I would mark on my calendar book due dates so I would remember. The email system is so much better. And when you combine that with the fact I can renew online then you have the biggest key to my success.

The last key is to be sure you're returning everything you think you are. We do this by loading library books into bags one at a time. I will pull up my card record and read the titles one by one. The children find that book, put it in the bag, and then we move on. This allows us to be sure we are returning all the books we should and lets us know which books are still wandering about the house. Sometimes we even discover that several books were never actually checked out to us. (We return them, too.) Every so often a book will prove difficult to locate. I will renew that book to give us more time to look and it usually turns up within the next month.

Sometimes they don't, though. Every so often I find a book still appears on my card when I know I've returned it. When that happens, I can usually find it on the library shelves and show the librarian who takes care of it on my card. But once a blue moon, a book which I know we've returned never shows up. I have to say this is when having a good relationship with your librarian is really helpful, because they are more likely to believe you. Plus, I'm also willing to pay for books we just can't find anywhere. It happens.

The last part of the questions was do I let my little people check out book? If they come to the library with me then, yes, they get to check out a couple of books. When they are really little I only let them check out board books. That way I don't have to worry about them. But by three all of my children have been really good with books and we have very little trouble with coloring or tearing. (I wish I could say the same for my walls. It is evident that I care for books more.) That year between the ages of 18 months and 2 1/2 seems to be the worst in regards to books destruction. Too much capability and too little sense.

It's happened a little later with the girls, but all of my children have really graduated from the need for board books by the age of three. Usually, unless it is a particularly favorite story, no one has really wanted to look at them past this age. They want to be like all the other big people and look at and listen to 'real' books.

I just looked at the length of this! I'm not really sure I have said anything except to have just proven that I can write really long posts about nearly anything.


Lucy said…
Thanks for the write up!

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