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Library Date Stamps Fall out of Use

The Gentle Art of Stamping

A fixture of libraries since yesteryear the date stamp is now in the twilight of its years. The once ubiquitous stamp is now mostly replaced by receipts from self issue machines. The date stamp no longer holds the same place in the role of librarianship. Before you accuse me of being sentimental I want to paraphrase Utah Philips who said when your memory goes forget it. I want to mourn the passing of the humble date stamp before it slips unnoticed from the annals of librarianship.

Even though stamps evolved throughout time, the noise, although changing, has always maintained an air of efficient dignity. Aloof from the machinations of everyday life the click, clunk or thud of the date stamp acted as a warning to avoid lateness, a hint of penalty lying beneath its clip of efficiency. Sometimes a high click sometimes a low thudding, the stamp always broke through the silence acting as a rude reminder that the book is not yours to own. Now modern machines issue paper receipts that detail return dates with no noise at all. The nearest element to the stamp is the high ping as the machine acknowledges barcode or RFID tag.

As an itinerant librarian the sound of the stamp is one that has remained constant both in public and academic libraries. No matter whether I was visiting as a tourist, studying or working the stamp remained something that reminded me where I was – a library. No similar sound can be heard in a bookshop.

What now for the librarian who issued books using the stamp? That moment of finding the best place on the issue slip to place the stamp is replaced by what task? There can be none equal to stamping return dates.

Other things receding from the cosy view of librarianship include card index files, the closing bell and manual issue of books. Only cardigans remain!

Well I guess anything viewed from afar has the romantic glow. At a time when libraries are closing, services are being shared or changed to keep up with technology maybe it is natural to feel wistful for quieter times. As we hurtle on towards more and more high tech, bookless and noise filled libraries spare a though for the humble stamp. The stamp seems symbolic of times of order, a slower pace- or maybe I am just getting old?

However lest I think that the stamp is going out without a fight I note that my local library has a date stamp next to the self issue machine as the printer on the machine often does not work! Go date stamp we salute you!

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© 2013 Anne McKenna

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