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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.

2016 library card designed by Shepard Fairey and Cleon Peterson

2016 library card designed by Shepard Fairey and Cleon Peterson

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

1993 library card

Library card that debuted in 1993 in conjuction with the re-opening of Central Library

In January 2016, the library updated that design to commemorate Los Angeles Public Library’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.

2016 library card commemorating the library winning the 2015 National Medal for Museum and Library Services

2016 library card commemorating the library winning the 2015 National Medal for Museum and Library Services

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

1993 library card for Gala Re-Opening of Central Library

1993 library card for Gala Re-Opening of Central Library

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.

Vintage manual library card

Vintage manual library card

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

Two patrons watch as a librarian uses a Recordak machine

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, [1951]. Security Pacific National Bank Collection

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?

Manual library check out slip

Self-service book borrowing slip, [1931]. Herald Examiner Collection

Compared to then, signing up for a library card is a breeze these days. You can even pre-register for a card online. 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.


 

 

 

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