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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The end of the Book Pocket

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 14, 2006



The end of April brought the end of an era to our library system.


We will no longer place pockets in the front of our books.


I know that sounds trivial, but for people who have used the library for a lifetime, a book pocket was a familiar site in every book checked out of the library.


The earliest books in our collection had a half-pocket with Carnegie Library of Steubenville printed on the front of the pocket, and the rules for library use printed under the library name.


By the 1930s, the pockets had become full-length with no rules preprinted.


Most libraries discovered that they should not have preprinted their rules on the book pockets as they would be incorrect as the rules changed, and you were stuck with thousands of books with the wrong rules printed in the front.


In 1962, the pockets changed to reflect the new name of the library, removing Carnegie and replacing it with Public.


The reason for the pocket was to provide a place for the book checkout card to reside when the book was on the shelf in the library.


The date due card resided in the pocket when the book was checked out.


In 1988, the library installed its first automation system and a bar code label replaced the book card, but the pocket remained.


Early computer systems had no method for printing labels for the books.


As time passed a variety of label systems emerged, but most simply added a computer-generated label to the existing pocket.


Labels were poor quality, printing has even worse.


As technology developed, improvements were made and the clue of the future came when book pockets disappeared from library supply catalogs, and became "special order."


Last fall, our library automation group reviewed a new product developed for library label printing and negotiated a group purchase discount for nearly fifty libraries.


The "BarTender" software for library label printing assembles the data from the computer system, and prints both the label for checkout as well as the spine label for shelving.


No more pockets, no more typing labels.


For the library user, the change will not be noticeable, unless you use the book pocket for bookmarks or slips.


Over the years, we have found paper clips, coins, and photographs in book pockets, so people used them for practical purposes.


The time had come to move on to new technology.


DVDs, videos, CDs, and other new library formats didn't adapt to the book pocket, so we were using less of them anyway.


The book pocket is departing from the library scene just like the card catalog.


I notice that in the bottom corner of the 1930 book pocket is the word, "Demco," which is the same Wisconsin library supply company that provided book pockets to the end.