There is a popular advertising campaign that ends each of its commercials with the question, “What’s in your wallet?” If you were to answer the question, what would you say – a credit card, debit card, health insurance card, gym card, driver’s license, a few bills and coins, old receipts? Would you say – library card?
Library cards have been around as long as libraries and much longer that any of the other types of cards that may be in your wallet. The first cards, or tickets, were probably issued at membership libraries, 18th-century organizations where members contributed fees, and sometimes books from their own collections, in exchange for the right to check out materials. Benjamin Franklin co-founded the first such membership library in Philadelphia in 1731. Just as libraries have evolved from private to public funding, the library card has evolved from paper ticket to paper card to the library card of today, a square of plastic with bar code for quick scanning. Tomorrow’s card may simply be a digitized image carried not in your wallet, but on your smartphone.
In its most common use, a library card serves as a membership card. It’s a visible symbol of your membership in the library’s community of users. The person who holds a library card has borrowing and other privileges associated with the issuing library. The library card also serves as a method of identification when borrowing materials. The card holder presents the card at checkout and takes responsibility for the item until returned. The library card speeds up the checkout process, ensures that the transaction is accurate and protects the user’s account from errors.
September is Library Card Sign-up Month, a time when we join public libraries across the country to encourage everyone to get a library card. Unlike the libraries of Benjamin Franklin’s day, libraries today are publicly funded and library cards are free. If you’re not a library card holder, we encourage you to register for a card during the month of September. As an incentive, we’ll enter your name in a prize drawing.
Of all the cards in your wallet, the library card is the best value. It allows you free access to books, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, magazines, resources on local history, downloadable music or e-books, streaming video and discounted admission to area museums and zoos. It allows the use of on sight computer workstations and gives you free access to WiFi. It enables you to receive help in locating materials that answer your questions and connects students to resources for homework assignments.
The American Library Association estimates that two-thirds of Americans have library cards. Almost 7,000 folks in Raynham have one. Check your wallet; are you one of them? If not, what are you waiting for? Applications are simple. Drop-by the library, show us a photo-ID, give us contact information, and you’ll get your card immediately. Then, put it in your wallet.