Remember vintage library checkout cards & due date slips?

Remember vintage library and due date slips

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Do you remember how libraries used to work? It’s been a while since you probably did it the old-fashioned way (if ever).

It used to be that in order to check out a book, you’d have to take a paper card out of the “lending pocket,” and used a pen to write your name on it.

Next, the librarian would date stamp that card and file it, then she or he would stamp a form in the back of the book so you knew when the borrowed volume had to be returned.

To help you down memory lane, here’s a look back at the systems and tools vintage libraries used to keep track of their treasures. Check ’em out!

Vintage photo - Checking out books at an old library (2)

Vintage library book systems (as of 1918)

Charging system for the smaller school library is a simple, efficient system of charging books — recommended for use in the smaller school library where a minimum number of forms is desired.

The supplies required for the working of this system are:

  1. A combined date slip and book pocket, one for each book to be circulated. (Cat. nos. 1172 or 1172.1.)
  2. A book card, one for each book to be circulated. (Cat. no. 1152.)
  3. A charging tray. (Cat. no. 1203.1.)
  4. One set of date guides. (Cat. no. 11851 in tray.)
  5. One band-dating stamp. (Cat. no. 1367.)
  6. One ink pad. (Cat. no. 1325.)

Library book check out systems from 1918

When the book is presented for charging, the book card is removed from the book pocket and the name of the borrower written, thereon; and the date that the book is due or lent stamped on the book card. This date is also stamped on the date space of the book pocket.

The book card is then placed in the charging tray behind the date guide, indicating the date on which the book is due.

When the book is returned, the book card is taken from the charging tray and the loan is canceled by drawing the pen or pencil through the borrower’s name and the date. The book card is then placed in the book pocket and the book is again ready for the shelf.

The book pocket recommended combines a date due slip, which informs the borrower when the book is due, and also provides a pocket in the book for holding the book card.

ALSO SEE: 25 things most people under 25 have never seen in real life (and probably can’t name)

Vintage photo - Checking out books at an old library (1)

Library book checkout slip (1910s/1920s)

This book was due November 20th, 1929 — just as the Great Depression was beginning.

Library book checkout slip 1910s and 1920s

University Place, Nebraska: Library book due date card (1929)

This library is free to all for reading and reference use within the building.

Borrowers. Any resident of University Place complying with the library regulations may borrow books from the library free of charge. Persons living outside of University Place may enjoy library privileges on the payment of one dollar a year. Each borrower is responsible for all books borrowed on his card and must pay for any book lost or injured. 

Time kept. Books may be kept two weeks and be renewed for two weeks more except seven-day books and magazines, which may be borrowed for one week and cannot be renewed. A fine of two cents a day will be imposed for books kept over time, including Sundays and holidays. No books will be issued until all fines are paid. 

Nebraska library due date card from 1929

Old-fashioned school library lending system illustrations (1947)

Vintage school library lending system illustration (1947)

School library cards and checkout slips (1940s)

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Vintage UC Berkeley Psychology Library checkout slip (1960s)

Vintage University of California at Berkeley Psychology library checkout slip (1960s)

A school library in 1966

A school library in 1966

Vintage library book cards & due date slips catalog (1967)

Date Cards are used with many different charging systems and are becoming increasingly popular because they speed up charging and are more economical than Date Slips.

They are used interchangeably with all books of same loan period so that both sides can be entirely used. You have a choice of 2 styles — The Outline Numeral Date Card and Standard Date Card.

Vintage library book cards and due date slips catalog (2)

Demco Quality Book Cards

These high quality book cards are made of a specially developed index bristol with extra tough fibres interlocked in a wear resistant formation that adds longer life to cards.

Edges are stronger — resist “burring” or “feathering” even when subjected to rough abrasive action from fingertips and fingernails. Cut with grain running the long way — will not sag in the charging tray.

You can be sure of highest quality whenever you order Demco book cards. Always uniform in color, size, weight, column ruling and spacing. Rigid manufacturing inspection eliminates any possibility of variation. Even the ink used is especially formulated to insure clear, sharp printing at all times.

Vintage library book cards and due date slips catalog (1)

MORE GOOD STUFF: See what antique school supplies & educational materials were like in the olden days

Band Daters / Date stamps (1968)

The date is easily changed by turning the wheel that rolls the day, month and year.

Date stamp - library

Vintage University of North Carolina library punch card

Here’s a look at a computer punch card checkout system from the early 1970s

SEE MORE PUNCH CARDS: Computers in the 1960s: What they looked like & how they were used

Vintage University of North Carolina library pocket and book card

Massachusetts Law Library lending slip (1981)

Massachusetts law library lending slip from 1981

Library lending tips for books (1980s)

Library lending tips for books - 1980s

Vintage UC Davis library book lending pocket (1981)


AN INITIAL FINE OF 25 CENTS will be assessed for failure to return this book on the date due. The penalty will increase to 50 cents on the fourth day, and to $1.00 on the seventh day overdue.

Vintage UC Davis library book lending pocket 1980s

Contra Costa County library book computer-stamped due date (1983)

Contra Costa County library book due date 1983

Vintage book due dates stamped from the 1980s and 1990s

Vintage book due dates from the 1980s and 1990s

NOW CHECK THIS OUT: Vintage card catalogs at the library – and how we used them

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