How did libraries work before barcode scanners?

I do remember a time before computers being everywhere, so I should remember this, but I don’t. When I check out a book from the library now, they scan the barcode inside the cover, the computer registers it, they stamp the card, and I leave with my latest reading material.

How did this work before barcode scaners and computer? Did they have to write everything down in a ledger or something?

In the back of the book was a paper “pocket” with a paper card in it. They would write or stamp your library membership number (or name) on the card and keep it, then they would stamp the due date on the inside of the book on the pocket.

Well, they worked by having a card inside the book that they pulled out and filed.

What’s interesting is that my library(where I work) is beyond laser scanning now. We use a radio-frequency chip that can scan through an entire pile of books in about a second and check them all out. I’m starting to forget about how hard it must have been to scan each book with a laser, let alone pulling the cards.

Back in the old days, each library book would have a pouch in the back of the book, with a little card in the pouch that had the name, author, and pertinent information about the book, along with lines underneath.

You’d sign your name on the card inside the book, the librarian would then stamp the card with the due date of the book, then take it, replacing it with a piece of paper giving you the due date. The librarian would then file the card along with the cards from the other books taken out that day. Since, generally, every book had the same due date…at my library it was 4 weeks after you checked the book out, it was easy to see when a book was overdue.

When you brought the book back, the librarian would just cross off the name on the card and replace it.

Wow, this question really makes me feel old. It wasn’t too long ago that libraries used the stamp card method.

In my library, each book had a pocked inside the back cover in which was inserted two cards on which was printed the book’s title, author, Dewey decimal number, etc… The librarian stamped the due date on both cards. One card was slipped back into the pocket. Either your name and account number would be written on the other card and filed by date or the card would be filed under your name.

A few years later, I came upon a public library whose membership cards bore a metal plate with raised letters spelling out your name etc. The membership card and the book cards were slipped into a machine and a crank was turned, transferring the pertinent information to the cards (much in the manner of an old credit card roller or whatever they were called).

I don’t pretend to speak for all libraries, but I know that the library I used when I was a child used microfilm. You handed the person at the circulation desk your books and library card. Each book had an ID card (really just a slip of paper) in the back with what would today be it’s barcode number on it. Each ID slip would have its picture taken with your library card.

Sounds expensive as all hell now that I think about it, but I guess a lot of good money got thrown after bad as technologies were jockeying for position in the 70s.

I remember something similar to what KneadToKnow remembers. I don’t know if it was “microform” (this was in the mid-60’s) or if it was more like a Xerox[sup]TM[/sup] machine. I do remember the little librarian who operated the machine (she would be called the circulation librarian nowadays)–she reminded me of a bird and always wore fancy bracelets. Also keep in mind that in the “olden” days, books were cataloged BY HAND with the librarians assigning Dewey Decimal or LC call numbers (probably DD) and TYPING catalog cards. Then filing said cards in the catalog. What is really scary is that I, as a professional librarian (liberrian) in a small hospital library still do it that way.

So, this is what getting old feels like.

And that solid ka-thunk that the machine made when the librarian stamped the card from the library book. In my town it stamped the due date but also took a chunk out of the side of the card, I think so they could visually inspect a pile of cards to see if any were overdue.

'scuse me while I crank up the 8-track player…

Actually, I think that the “nibbling a little bit out of the side of the card” was a trick the machine used to stamp each date below the previous date on the card; if it didn’t bite a chunk out of the edge, the machine wouldn’t know where to stamp, and it would just make one big inky smear, stamping the same place over and over. My library had one of those machines too. heh.

Here’s my question, though, since they won’t let me look behind the counter: at the library, and even at Barnes & Noble, after you check out your book they put it into some kind of machine under the counter. I hear a “kathunk”, almost as if the book’s been dropped, and they hand the book back to me. I assume it’s some kind of machine that removes anti-theft protection, but how does it work? And how do they re-activate the protection when the book is returned?

I’ve been wondering about this. A few years ago I bought some books at a library sale and they forgot to deactivate the anti-theft devices, so now I’m setting off alarms. How does the anti-theft signal work? Is there something inserted into the binding? How do I extract it?

The anti-theft device is a small strip of metallic tape that is inserted between the binding of the book and the book itself behind the spine. It can be taken out, although it’s a pain to do so. However, it’s easy to re-insert using a threader. The notches on the cards were a way to tell what books were due back on a certain date. It was not actually the notch that was important, but there was a hole in an “unnotched” spot. Each hole represented a specific date. Put the cards into a tidy stack, insert a spindle (looked like a knitting needle) through a hole and all the cards due on that date were together. (Lord, the crap I remember from library school).

The deal with punching the card was that there were several holes along the side of a card.
When it came time to find out which ones were late you would stick a bayonet into the hole for the week that was due. You would then shake the cards and the overdues would be the ones that fell out.

Needless to say this method was prone to error.

The fact that library books don’t have the cards anymore makes you lose something. I remember it being so neat finding and checking a book out of the library not checked out since 1926. Now I imagine you never know.

[slips into old geezer stupor]

And of course, somebody already said what I said.

The ka-thunk card nibbling that Max Torque refers to is a whole 'nother thing from what the later posters are referring to. It was a simple system like used on timeclock/card systems to allow the next date/time to be printed on the next lower line.

I never saw the hole/needle system used in librarys. (Other places tho’.) Seems like a real waste since all you have to do is file the card in the right slot when it is checked out.

Magnetic anti-theft systems deactivate using a strong electomagnetic field. Keep your watches and credit cards away. New tags are put on. The old ones can’t be restored.

I worked in a library back in the 60’s and our system was considered pretty modern. Every book had a plastic card in a pocket in the back about the size of a 3 by 5 index card embossed with the book’s name and other info. The letters were raised like a credit card. The library cards were also embossed with raised letters. Both the plastic book card and library card went into a machine together with a 3 part carbon form that captured the info on both and the due date. The plastic card and one of the carbon forms went home with the book. The other two were filed.

As a kid I used the old ‘card in the pocket system’ when I checked books out; I didn’t really care how it worked as I was more interested in reading them (tho it was kinda interesting if no one had read it since 1926 :slight_smile: )

Later, I worked in a college library as the circulation supervisor and we used a laser scanning system. This library had a big theft problem (poor students, don’t you know. :rolleyes: ) anyway we had a metal gate which would lock if the user’s card was bad, had overdue books, etc. I remember that I was told if someone broke the gate and kept on running, not to bother to chase them, we had their name. :eek:

In the New York library system, they used to pass the book plus the stamped card and library card over some sort of photocopier. I guess they kept the pictures on file until the book got returned.

I’m pretty young, but I remember this card system. I sort of have this nostalgic longing for it-- now as a student I check out the oddest damn books, and I can rememeber being able to look at the card to see who else had read it-- as a sort of recognition of a genealogical line of fellow geeks. I’d love to know who else thinks what I’m reading is of any interest, and what their handwriting is like.