Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

DEAR ABBY: Thank you on behalf of librarians everywhere for your commonsense reply to the question of who should pay for the overdue library book the 7-year-old granddaughter lost.

I know what a thrill it is for children to check out books from their local libraries, but when those children forget where they placed them, forget the due dates or lose those books forever, it can be a problem for everyone.

Parents and grandparents should keep track of all books checked out on the family library cards, because the fines accumulate in a hurry. Arguing over who is responsible can send the claim to collections, with added fines.

Those who grumble about fines on their cards should remember how much it would cost if they had to buy every book they wanted to read instead of borrowing them from the public library. -- DENISE VILANDRE, HURON, S.D.

DEAR DENISE: Indeed. Even with library discounts, the cost of restocking our libraries is considerable. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: On Dec. 7, 1968, a man named Richard Dodd returned an overdue library book to the University of Cincinnati. His great-grandfather had checked out the volume in 1823.

Although he did not have to pay the fine, the library computed the fine -- and it would have totaled $22,646. -- FRANK IN LONG BEACH, CALIF.

DEAR FRANK: In another 145 years it could have added up to some REAL money! Read on:

DEAR ABBY: That grandmother should have used this experience as a "fun" and instructive opportunity to show her grandchild the due date, mark it on the calendar and return the book together -- BEFORE it was overdue. It would have provided a valuable lesson to the child, based on positive role modeling. -- ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER, FORT WALTON BEACH, FLA.

DEAR TEACHER: You're right. Children learn by example.

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for putting in a good word for libraries, and for exposing children to them.

During World War II, my first library was a very small room on the upper floor of the old Grange Hall in the little village of Savona, N.Y. Since it was close to my home, I was allowed to go there alone and choose my own books, even before I went to school. My family would read the stories to me.

Those trips to the library were magical. I bless the people who established that small library. Parents, please love your children enough to take them to your local library, and read to them! -- HELEN I. FRANCIS, SILVER CITY, N.M.

DEAR HELEN: You have made a good point. It reminds me of a stanza from a wonderful poem, "The Reading Mother," by Strickland Gillilan, that has appeared in this column a number of times:

"You may have tangible wealth untold,

"Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.

"Richer than I you can never be --

"I had a mother who read to me."

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

More like Dear Abby