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End of Library Stamps Isn't the End of the World: It's Just a New Way to Fine Me

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Judy E. Coughlin, Leesburg representative on the Loudoun County Public Libraries Board of Trustees, said lots of counties, hers included, don't charge overdue fines anymore. And she's a fan of receipts rather than stamps. "We should not waste our money with antiquated, inefficient methods when we can give librarians time to do what they do best -- serve the public."

Reader Ellen Henry was also bothered by my column: "I am very disappointed that you chose to focus on the hackneyed myths of librarians in 'twin sets and glasses' who will upgrade their wardrobes thanks to the loss of the stamps and more revenue from overdue fines. . . . I daresay Montgomery County is probably one of the most innovative library systems in the country. Instead you perpetuate stereotypes of librarians and commit a serious disservice to a group of dedicated and creative professionals."

No disrespect intended. In fact, I'm working on a new stereotype that I hope Americans will adopt: ninja librarians. Clad in black from head to toe, they use kung fu throwing stars to affix ESOL class notices to the bulletin boards and can noiselessly vault over the stacks in search of that David Baldacci book you were looking for.

Judy Moreland wrote that my description of librarians as "liberal, forward-thinking public servants" was incomplete. "You forgot 'generous.' Librarians are very generous; it's in their DNA. They're generous with their knowledge, which is vast, and they're generous with their time. God bless their little pea-picking hearts!"

All true. And they also know 101 ways to kill a man with a bamboo stick.

Finally, a Florida librarian and blogger -- who goes by the online name The Effing Librarian -- wrote: "The plot is to accelerate senility by outsourcing your memory to a computer. The old date stamp sparked thought as you wondered who had the book last or why there was a nine-year gap between those last two borrowers. The date stamp was a link to history. But a paper receipt, or even no receipt, is just more crap to find a place for because it doesn't belong anywhere; the receipt doesn't even make a good bookmark, it's so small and flimsy."

The plot, TEL wrote, is to give Google unlimited power. "Because you won't remember your PIN or even the library Web address. So you'll Google it -- 'when are my library books due back?' -- and Google will show you ads for Amazon's Kindle."

My e-mail: kellyj@washpost.com.


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