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Your Cure for Overdue Books, Library Late Fees, and ADHD (OK, 2 Out of 3)

Has paying fees for lost and overdue books become your family’s library tradition? Take comfort with this from a former library employee and mom to one forgetful, disorganized child with ADHD.

A girl researches ADHD and college at the library.
A girl researches ADHD and college at the library.

Have you heard the one about the library patron who complained that she could never find books on the shelf about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? They were always overdue! Keep your child from being the butt of this ADHD joke with these tricks and tips that I learned in my years working at our local public library.

1. Make going to the library a family affair. Children who learn to use the library with the direct supervision of a parent are by far more successful at developing good habits and avoiding fines and fees than those who go it alone. Turn responsibility over to your child slowly.

2. Establish your family’s Library Day by visiting the library on the same day each week. Since library materials are typically checked for periods of one, two, or three weeks, if you visit each Monday, materials will always be due on Mondays. (If you visit more than once a week, no problem. Just remember to only renew on Library Day to keep due dates on the same weekday.)

3. Check your account weekly, on Library Day, before leaving home. Most libraries offer online access to account information. If yours doesn’t, call the circulation department or keep your printed receipts. Locate every item checked out on your account, whether it is due to be returned that day or not. This will help prevent a last-minute scramble to find a missing book the following week. Decide which materials to return and which ones to keep.

4. If you wish to renew items, do so (online or by phone) before leaving home. That way, if an item won’t renew, you’ll avoid an extra trip to return it. Renewing items only on your Library Day keeps all due dates to that day of the week.

5. Consider setting specific limits for how many items your child can check out. Some children are overwhelmed by the choices available and will take home as much — or more — than they can carry or possibly read. Checking out 10 picture books and one DVD per week or three chapter books and two music CDs, for example, makes it easy to gather up your returns before your next visit.

6. Designate a specific spot at home for library materials, and teach your child to return items to that spot each time he finishes reading, listening, or viewing. A canvas bag with handles, a zippered top, and a wide, flat bottom is the ideal all-in-one toting, safekeeping, and storage tool. Use it to carry materials to and from the library. Then place it, unzipped, in a handy spot (the flat bottom will prevent tipping) or hang it from a hook by one handle.

Many adults — with and without ADHD — could benefit from these tips too. Now, if I could just follow my own advice. (Do as I say, not as I do!)