Thousands of items are overdue at local libraries, and they can all be traced back to the same party: the Internal Revenue Service.
Local libraries typically set out more than 100,000 IRS documents this time of year as people prepare to fill out their federal tax forms.
But this January, "It's slim pickings," said Carole Bryan, reference librarian at Vancouver Community Library.
It's because of the federal government's closure in October.
"We're totally at the whim of the federal government," said John Goaring, circulation services specialist at the Camas Public Library.
According to an IRS news release, "About 90 percent of IRS operations were closed during the shutdown." That delayed the production of tax booklets, forms and schedules.
"We usually get them in December," Bryan said. "People start asking for tax forms in mid-December, and we put them out the first of January. This year, distribution is pretty spotty so far.
"The latest email said we would receive everything by mid-February," Bryan said.
The downtown branch at 901 C St. is the busiest in the Fort Vancouver system, which is reflected in its annual stock of IRS forms.
"At Vancouver Community Library, we put out about 40,000 documents," Bryan said. "The other branches total about 64,000 documents."
Librarians are also coming up dry on some online resources.
"A lot of times we can go to irs.gov and print out forms," Goaring said, but some of the most popular documents aren't online yet.
The slowdown for 2013 filing "is not unique at all," Goaring said. Congress took so long to revise the tax code a year ago that 2012 filers were also inconvenienced.
In addition to providing a source for IRS documents, community libraries also are popular places to get help with tax forms, Bryan noted. AARP volunteers will start their tax-aid program Saturday at several community libraries; schedules will vary depending on location.
To contact community libraries, go to www.fvrl.org and click on "locations and services."
One other note on the IRS timetable. The slow rollout of tax forms doesn't mean people can dawdle in filing their returns.
According to an IRS news release, "The April 15 tax deadline is set by statute and will remain in place. However, the IRS reminds taxpayers that anyone can request an automatic six-month extension to file their tax return."