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Never have an overdue book again!

October 7, 2013

Of course, you can do this by borrowing ebooks, but that’s not what I mean. Ebooks from the library merely expire. You can’t be late.

But if you borrow other things—physical things—from the library and struggle with lateness, just give us your email address.

Then, you’ll get a “courtesy” notice three days before things are due. This doesn’t guarantee a fine-free life. You still have to read the email, then act upon it in time, but we’ve heard the courtesy notice helps a lot.

You have a variety of options for keeping track of library stuff. Although we no longer put date-due cards in every book or stamp every DVD, audiobook, and magazine, this is still an option.

It’s simply not the default action. Just ask, or take a card yourself, or we’ll put a note on your account to remind us.

Some people take printed check-out receipts with them, presumably to stick on the refrigerator. Others check their accounts online regularly, where you can see the status of holds, what’s checked out, what’s due when.

Some people wait for the email reminder. The mere presence of a library email in your Inbox does not mean just one thing. You will get courtesy notices, hold notices, hold cancellation notices, overdue notices, and heaven forbid, billing notices.

Holds do get cancelled. We will hold items for eight days, after which they go back to our shelves, or back to the lending library, or to the next person on the waiting list. You’ll get one email about the hold, then a follow-up call from us reminding you the item is waiting.

We’d like to have our email if it’s a reliable way to get in touch with you. It greatly reduces the number of telephone calls we have to make—and we make many every day. But you have to be in the habit of checking email. Once a week is probably not enough.

Some day, we may be able to text you at your phone. I don’t know if this would be an improvement or not. It seems to me that text messages are more fleeting than any other form of message we use today.

The return of physical items can be confounded by the statistical oddities of the universe. The flooding in northern Colorado was some kind of rarity ranging from a hundred- to a thousand-year flood. A look at Google Earth and it’s certainly clear it’s happened before.

Things happen. An extremely reliable patron recently came in with a book she was certain she’d returned long ago. She had looked everywhere—which means everywhere books had ever been found or she could imagine a book might go.

While looking for something else around the bed, on her hands and knees, something caught her eye. She lives in an old house with very wide baseboards. Sure enough, the slim paperback was resting on edge on the baseboard behind the bedside table.

The universe had provided a well into which the book slipped under the right circumstances. It could not be seen from below or above, and was hidden by the bed spread. And who would’ve thought, anyway?

I love these stories. They are also why we often renew items and wait for their discovery rather than accept payment right away. The universe contains many more hidey-holes than are dreamed of in our philosophies.

Regardless, you can buy yourself ease of mind by leaving us your email address.

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