Of the 25,723 drawers in the Copyright Card Catalog, more than 12,000 have already been scanned resulting in more than 17 million card images safely tucked away in Library storage. The long term plan is to capture index terms from the card images using OCR and keyboarding and to build indexes for online searching. But this will require significant time and money to achieve. Must we wait to share these images with you? Maybe not.
As an interim step, the Copyright Office is considering making the images of the cards in the catalog available online through a hierarchical structure that would mimic the way a researcher would approach and use the physical card catalog. We’re calling this a virtual card catalog. While it would not provide the full record level indexing that remains a principal goal, it would make information available as we’re doing the scanning and as searchable as the actual cards.
The card images have been organized by drawer, each in its own folder, and the image file names contain the time period, the drawer label, a sequential four digit number starting with 0001, and occasionally an alphabetic suffix when information exists on a verso or there are multiple card images for a single entry. So there’s already a hierarchical organization of the images that could enable a virtual card catalog.
But how would this virtual card catalog look and operate? A search would probably begin at the top of the hierarchy with the selection of a catalog segment (e.g., Registrations from 1971 to 1977) perhaps from a drop down list. This would be followed by the entry of a search term (i.e., a name or a title). The software would step down to the next level of the hierarchy within the selected catalog segment and find the “virtual drawer” folder that alphabetically within the segment should contain the term and then display that drawer label along with labels for some number of drawers immediately preceding it and some number of drawers immediately following it. The researcher could select any one of the drawers displayed or return to the initial search screen. For a selected drawer the software could display small scrollable images in one panel and a full card image in another panel. One could scroll through the smaller images to different points in the virtual drawer, select and display a specific card, navigate to the next card, the previous card, the beginning of the drawer, and to the end of the drawer. The software could support a return to the list of drawers, forward and backward navigation at the drawer level, and a return to the initial search screen. The following is a mock-up of how the card images might be displayed. Click on the image to see a larger display.
We are exploring multiple ways of making the Copyright records available online sooner rather than later. The notion of a virtual card catalog is an example and one that could probably be done at a modest cost. It sounds good to us but we want to hear what you think of it. While not the optimal solution, would it nevertheless be useful to you as an interim step? Do you know of other organizations that have done something similar and done it well? Please take a moment to consider this option and let us know what you think.