For centuries, the library catalog was the eponymous symbol of a library. It provided one of the first taxonomies for library materials–Author, Title, Subject. Although it has mostly been replaced by online catalogs and search engines such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo, it was the original analog search engine. (An old apothecary cabinet maybe it’s closest relative.)
Library History Buff traces the history of the card catalog back to November 1789 during the French revolution when inventory takers used the backs of old playing cards to “write down the bibliographic description of each confiscated book.”
The cards in the old card catalog were originally written by hand and were later typed. That Library of Congress began the sale and distribution of pre-printed cards in 1901.
Recently the Library of Congress in collaboration with Chronicle Books published a new book called the Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures with foreword by Carla Hayden.
The Washington Post wrote a nostalgic review of the new book. https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/what-libraries-lost-when-they-threw-out-the-card-catalog/2017/07/07/5432821c-632f-11e7-a4f7-af34fc1d9d39_story.html?utm_term=.3b5218b2e937
I remember one time in a post library when a patron came in to complain that she literally could not find the book in the small wooden catalog.
Do you remember the days when library cards were first filed above the rod so that somebody else could check them? I also remember the parents that did not recognize why it was a problem when their children gleefully threw all of those above-the-rod cards onto the floor in piles. (These were the same children who loved to throw the JE books off the shelves.) When we would mention it to the parents they gave us the blank, you’ve got to be kidding and/or crazy stare.
What is your favorite card catalog story or memory? Join in the conversation and share your favorite tale of the card catalog. I remember in Library School (this was decades before they all became iSchools)., that I had to do a Skelly project. (The was research in the Social Sciences. I chose Women in the Military.) It was a laborious task of over one hour to finally discover titles under United States–Armed Forces–Women. By Service it was United States–Army (or Navy or Marine Corps)–Women. Who would have guessed? Obviously not me.