ASSOCIATES (2005, July, v. 12, no. 1) -

*Playing With Plates*


Nancy Douglas
Head, Cataloging Department
University of California, Riverside

Vanity car license plates are so commonplace now that many of our readers may not recall that they have not always been available. In that era between the end of Burma Shave signs and freeway billboards and the advent of cell phones, they became one of the best distractions on car trips. Suddenly, the family game went beyond the attempt to find out-of-state plates and turned into the challenge of figuring out what a vowel-less phrase might mean. There a website (isn’t there always!) listing a number of them at, including these:

FLEA – on a VW Rabbit
DA WABIT – on a VW Rabbit
IAML8 – on a white VW Rabbit
ML8ML8 – on another white Rabbit

And, not on the list but more relevant to us:

I [heart] LIBRY

Along the way, the plates themselves have come to support various causes, with several states issuing specialty plates supporting libraries and literacy programs. Many states have petition programs which can lead to the creation of new specialty plates.

Texas has the “Texas Reads” program with the proceeds of special license plate sales used to fund grants for reading programs in Texas public libraries. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission expect to award $15,000 to public libraries in grants funded by this program in 2005. The annual fee of $30 is split into $8 to create the plate, and $22 into the grants fund.

New York has a “Love Your Library” license plate program with proceeds going to summer reading programs at public libraries across the state. This plate starts at $43, but the annual renewal of $25 goes completely into the reading program.

Nevada has a program, too. Funds raised by these plates will support summer reading programs and educational opportunities for librarians throughout the state. Libraries and Friends of Libraries throughout the state worked to gather the 1000 signatures needed to establish this special edition plate.

Indiana has a plate created by the Indiana Literacy Foundation, Inc. from which they provide technical and program support to adult and family literacy programs in Indiana.

And then there’s the ever-popular license plate frame, for those who are not fond of bumper stickers. ALA offers a library license plate holder, available for $6 through the ALA store at

Another way license plates might be used to benefit libraries is shown in an Arlington County, Virginia plan. Tow truck drivers use an apparatus called Bootfinder, much like a radar gun, in which a camera scans license plates and compares them against city files to find people who haven’t paid taxes and fines. When the attached laptop beeps for a hit, the tow truck can tow the vehicle and the car can even be auctioned off within 10 days, but generally this is preceded by a sequence of letters and reminders. So far, cities in Virginia and Connecticut have used them primarily for delinquent registrations, but they could be used to pursue scofflaws on delinquent court fines or overdue library books.

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