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Librarian Spreads Joy, New Orleans Culture Across Country With Every Returned Item

Marie Simoneaux

Marie Simoneaux

Marie is a writer and journalist who tells stories about the human impact of the New Orleans Public Library

If you’ve ever exchanged materials through the New Orleans Public Library’s Interlibrary Loan service, you may have found a special trinket tucked into your items when they’ve come back – a doubloon.

Those little slices of New Orleans are put there by librarian Jan Barnes, a 31-year NOPL veteran who has been at the helm of the Library’s ILL program for the past decade. 

“I started using the doubloons right away,” Barnes explained, saying she got the idea from her husband Tony – also a NOPL librarian –  who worked in the ILL department back in the 1980s and 1990s. 

“I include them with books we’ve borrowed from other libraries, along with a small thank you card for letting us use their material,” Barnes said. 

The ILL program is part of an international effort to provide materials to library users when their local library does not have the items they need. 

Over the years, Barnes has sent out thousands of doubloons, running out only once. Now, she puts out a call at the start of every Carnival season asking for staff to donate their extra coins and is still working through a box of thousands given to her by Library staff. 

With each doubloon, Barnes hopes she’s spreading a bit of fun, joy, and Mardi Gras spirit across the country. 

And, judging from the dozens of thank you notes tacked on her bulletin board, and a drawer holding hundreds of more, it appears Barnes is achieving her goal.  Marilyn Friedhof of the Rowan County Public Library in Morehead, Kentucky, recently contacted the Library to express her gratitude and appreciation for the gesture. 

“Hi New Orleans Public Library! I loved the Mardi Gras coin your Interlibrary Loan staff put in the book y’all borrowed from our library! What a sweet little touch of kindness that brought a smile to my day,” Friedhof wrote.  

This is exactly the reaction Barnes hopes for.  

“I just like to imagine a smile from the librarian or clerk who opens the returned book. It’s always nice to brighten someone’s day, even if just a tiny bit,” she said.

With all the positive feedback she’s gotten over the years, Barnes said she wanted to ensure it continues on with or without her. 

“It’s in the procedure manual, as I hope the tradition keeps going if I someday decide to retire,” she said.

Barnes said she owes many thanks to Charlotte Horne, the Cataloging department’s office assistant, who packs and mails out their materials. 

Have you received a doubloon from Barnes and Horne? If so, send us a picture at or by tagging us on social media @nolalibrary!  

Libraries all over the world participate in Interlibrary Loan as a cooperative effort to provide articles, books, and other materials to all. The service is free to all cardholders, and is intended to provide materials on specialized topics, or older, out-of-print materials. Find out how to use this service at 

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