What's In Your Wallet? | Los Angeles Public Library
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What's In Your Wallet?

Kelly Wallace, Librarian, History Department,
Library cards

                    “A library card is the start of a lifelong adventure.”
                                -Author Lilian Jackson Braun

Did you nab one of the artist-designed library cards?  Designed by street artist and library supporter Shepard Fairey and LA-based artist Cleon Peterson, this limited edition card is going fast.  The new card features a stylized illustration of the Hope Street entrance to Central Library in black, green, and tan. 

Card designed by Shepard Fairey and Cleon Peterson

The previous version, the familiar brightly colored plastic card, debuted September 1, 1993, in conjunction with the opening of the new Central Library. 

LAPL library card

The new card was hailed as state of the art technology in the promotional brochure:

"Your new computerized library card will enable you to borrow material from the Central Library, starting October 3, and branches of the Los Angeles Public Library as they are automated and come "on line."

In January 2016, the library updated that design to commemorate LAPL’s receiving the National Medal for Museum and Library Services, the highest award given to museums and libraries.  This award, given annually by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, honors institutions that make significant and innovative contributions to their communities.  

National Medal of Honor commemorative card

The Shepard Fairey/Cleon Peterson design is not the first limited edition LAPL library card ever issued.

Grand opening gala card

This rarity was given to those who attended the gala opening of the Central Library on October 3, 1993.  Fifth Street was closed for the $500-a-ticket star-studded celebration.  The 1,300 first nighters received proxies for this VIP library card.

Prior to the introduction of the new-fangled "computerized" card in 1993, the library utilized borrower’s cards printed on thick paper, with typewritten names and addresses.  

1959 library card

To check out books, the borrower’s card, the book and the book record were photographed in a Recordak machine.

Recordak photographic charging machine

In this photo dated November 1, 1951, two patrons watch as a librarian uses a Recordak charging machine.  Photographic charging machines were faster and more accurate than older manual charging methods and made library operations more efficient.

Manual charging card

This slip is an example of the card used when librarians manually checked books out to patrons.

While we’re on the subject of outdated procedures, did you know that prior to October 1942, if you did not own property, you had to have a guarantor or make a financial deposit to obtain a card? 

Compared to then, signing up for a library card is a breeze these days.  You can even pre-register for a card online (http://www.lapl.org/about-lapl/contact-us/adult-library-card-pre-registration).   If you don’t already have a card, join the nearly one and a half million happy LAPL library card holders today. 

No matter which card you carry, it provides access to all the amazing resources that the library has to offer, everything from free online classes to live homework help to digital downloads of music, magazines and movies.  Not to mention access to the historical Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and San Francisco Chronicle.

Enjoy this tangible artistic delight while you can.  All too soon library cards may be replaced by an app on our cell phones.