WHAT DO "HARRY and the Terrible Whatzit" and Louis L'Amour have in common?

They are favorite choices of two new library card holders - in the same family, four generations apart.Ben Bishop, 87, and Trent Richards, 5, met at the library to "get carded" as part of Library Card Sign-up Month. The September campaign, sponsored by the American Library Association and the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, is being supported with proclamations from Utah Gov. Norm Bangerter and Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis.

First begun in 1987, this program encouraging the public to visit libraries and get cards was extended with a challenge from outgoing U.S. Education Secretary William J. Bennett that ". . . every child should obtain a library card - and use it." The theme for that year, extended into 1988, is a parent-directed message: "The Best Gift You'll Ever Give Your Child - A Library Card."

Locally, the idea of using the library more became a family project to "get carded."

Ben Bishop, his daughter Dorothy Fisher, grand-daughter Geri Richards and great-grandson Trent celebrated by getting Trent's first library card - and Bishop's, too. Great-grandfather and great-grandson signed their names at the same time and received yellow cards entitling them to use the library with no restrictions.

In Hinckley, Millard County, where Bishop long lived, a library patron merely had to sign a name to check out books. A library plate or number was never required. Over the years he read widely, books that were given as gifts or borrowed, but he never owned a library card. Until now. He's determined to use it, even though it means getting someone to take him to the library, where he'll peruse the shelves from a wheelchair. But he'll use it! (He checked out a new L'Amour book the day he received his card - a different one than the countless titles he owns).

For Trent, a beginning kindergartener, owning a library card is just an extension of the weekly trips he's always made to the public libraries. Now he'll be able to have his own name on his book selections, which will probably continue to be "Harry and the Terrible Whatzit," "William's Doll" and the books from the "Clifford . . ." series.

Reading and library use have always had a role in this family. Mrs. Fisher's mother had been a school teacher, was a certified educator herself, and when her husband's assignments took them to Saipan and St. Thomas, the family used the school and university libraries there to find materials. "It's been a link for us," said Dorothy Fisher. "We read nursery rhymes together when the children were small, and now Geri and I are reading "Follow the River" together. This summer we shared poetry by flashlight under the stars with the grandchildren."

The modified adage seems true: The family that reads together, stays together.

Geri Richards recalls the pride of having her own library plate and using it at Evergreen Library, in the Salt Lake County Library System, to check out such classics as "Jane Eyre," "Moby Dick" and "How Green Was My Valley." "The librarians never questioned such a little girl reading such big books!"

Libraries have continued to be an important part of her life. "I was chosen to be a `library worker' in second grade, and I learned about the Dewey Decimal System and how to catalog books. In college I was on staff at the University of Utah Business School Library."

With her own children, libraries have been an integral part of their learning: weekly visits, haunting the reference sections for material to use in reports and seeking biographies for tie-ins to other subjects.

"I love to read and prefer the book to a TV version of a story. With a book, I can use my own imagination, develop my own characters. Mine are much more colorful than the ones on the screen!"

Ben Bishop proudly displayed his badge reading, "I've been carded at the Library!" and put his new library card in a wallet along with other items there. He, like all of us, carries many cards, but few include frequent services with no strings attached.

In William Bennett's words, "You'll be getting many cards in your life - Social Security cards, driver's license cards . . . but none will be more important than your library card."

A postscript could almost be added, ". . . Don't leave home without it!"

Throughout September, corporate sponsors will be assisting with advertising to help the public "get carded." Some fast-food meals will have reminders and incentives, Sears' back-to-school catalog will include messages, TV spots will endorse the campaign and school children will be encouraged to get their own identifying cards for library use.

In Salt Lake City, Whitmore Library is offering a special 5-year-old birthday party (stories and all) the last Saturday of each month to sign up children and their friends.

Whether you are 5 or 105, the library card is the best bargain available. The services range from use of a variety of periodicals, videotapes, cassettes, media equipment (including reference searches and computers) and programs to meet nearly every interest - community issues, entertainment, crafts and "how-to" sessions.

And books! If it's a classic, a new bestseller or a line of a forgotten poem, the library will find it for you.

For information on "Getting Carded at the Library!" with listings of services and programs, contact local branch libraries or use these numbers: Salt Lake City Library System: 363-5733; Salt Lake County Library System: 943-4636.