Fewer inky fingers at Virginia county's libraries

Fewer inky fingers at Virginia county's libraries

The gentle thud of a librarian ink-stamping the due date on a card will soon vanish from public libraries in Fairfax County, Va.

Library customers instead will receive a receipt listing each item they checked out and the date it is due.

Library director Edwin S. Clay III estimates the system will save more than $59,500 in the first year.

The old method of stamping the due date onto cards sometimes took four hours per day at each library, said Lois Kirkpatrick, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Public Library.

'If you've ever been in the back room of a library, you'll know how tedious it can be, stamping all those cards,' Kirkpatrick said.

The new receipts are part of the services offered by the library's new system, which went online two years ago. The Unicorn system from Sirsi Corp. of Huntsville, Ala., runs on a Sun Microsystems Inc. server and uses an Oracle Corp. database.

Library patrons also can sign up to be sent e-mail alerts. The system will automatically notify patrons three days before their books are due, Kirkpatrick said.

If library patrons lose their receipts, they can find out when to return their books by visiting the My Account section of the library's online catalog or by calling their local library branch.

Library staff will seal up the paper pockets on the back covers of the library's existing 2 million books, Kirkpatrick said. New books will no longer have the pockets.

A library patron sent an e-mail recently to the library applauding the move to receipts, Kirkpatrick said. 'She said that the card pockets on the backs of children's books often covered up pictures and information that were part of the story.'

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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