I remember walking out of the library that day, my face red with embarrassment, and thinking, “I could have bought books, lots of nice books, for the amount of money I just spent on late fines.” I stewed for the rest of the day, and in the end I made the decision to never go to the library again. Ever. I mean, who needs the stress of keeping track of dozens of books for weeks at a time, or the humiliation of having to explain to the librarian why there’s silly putty stuck to the “Curious Gorge takes a Job” cassette tape? Not me.
Fast forward a year; the boys were older, J was becoming a solid reader and G was a shaky newbie reader in need of lots of practice. Miss E adored picture books and could look at them endlessly. Over and over, I would think of books I wanted to read to them, the drawing books we could have fun with, reading about trucks and tractors, and the solar system…
Finally I came to the realization that it was time for me to grow up and get a grip. It’s taken me time, some tweaking, and a lot of diligence, but I finally have a library system that works for us, and I’m happy to say that in the last two and a half years we’ve kept our late fines under 75 cents.
Our local library sells these great book bags. They’re sturdy, roomy (which is really important), and inexpensive. I bought one for each of us. One of the things I love best about these totes is the little pocket in the front. I always keep all of our library cards in my wallet. I used to let the kids keep their own but the were constantly getting lost. Now they stay in my wallet until library day when I slip their cards into the pocket of their bags.
Once the kids have filled their library bags and checked out all their books, I make sure they give me their book receipts and I stick them straight into my wallet. The moment I get home I set my things down, pull the receipts from my purse and I write the due date on the calendar in bright red ink. I know this sounds rigid but if I don’t write it on the calendar immediately I will forget ( I have the short-term memory of a goldfish). And if the date isn’t written on the calendar it might as well not exist because I won’t remember it either. So, the calendar gets marked right away, not only with the due date, but with the number of books that were taken out on each library card. That was a great little tip my mother-in-law suggested and it’s been a huge time saver. That way I know exactly how many books we’re keeping track of at a glance.
As a backup, I pin our book receipts to the board above my sewing machines. Most of the time I don’t end up needing them. I just make sure that the number on the calendar matches the number of the books we have in the book boxes. But every once in awhile we get a rouge book or two and I need to consult the receipts to figure out exactly which book has gone AWOL.
The book boxes are without a doubt, the best idea I have ever come up with. I know, that’s a pretty low bar. But let me explain the simple but magnificent beauty of the book boxes. All the library books go into the boxes, the children know exactly where to find them, and exactly where to put them away. Gone are the days of frantically looking under beds, in toy boxes, through vehicles, under couch cushions, and in the bottom of closets. The kiddos find the books they want to read, they sprawl out all over the living-room reading and when they’re done they put them all back in the boxes.
And you know what? Because the books are so easy to find and access, they get read a whole lot more. We find ourselves at the library pretty much every three weeks. Having a fresh batch of books cycling in and out of the house has been so great for the kids and their reading. Naturally, our lives get busy and there are times when it’s a struggle to get the books back to the library; which is why I keep all of our library card passwords written down in a safe place so I can easily renew our books online. Being able to renew books online has saved me so much time and money!
Another big and slightly unpopular decision I made, was to put a stop to the children checking out videos or audio cassette tapes. They are so much harder to keep track of, easier to damage, and the late fines are twice as much as a book. I bend that rule now and again for a special treat or for an educational DVD that supplements what we’ve been leaning at home. On the rare occasion that we do bring a DVD home I put on the highest shelf of our bookcase and it stays there, safe and out of the reach of careless children.
So, the moral of this story? Learn from my mistakes my friends, find a library system that works for you and stick with it. Don’t waste another day avoiding the library because you’ve been singing the “I’ve got the outrageous library fine blues”, it doesn’t have to be that way. Also, if you have any great tips or tricks for keeping track of library books I’d love to hear them!