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Pic of the Week: The Good Ole’ Card Catalog

Serial Card Catalog 1800-1979 , 5th floor, Library of Congress, John Adams Building. Photograph by J. Harbster

I can remember when I headed down to my local library and looked through the card catalog to find information. I even remember classes in high school on how to use the card catalog. Nowadays, many library users have never heard of a card catalog and if they see one, they might think it’s an interesting old piece of furniture.

In this age of Google, online catalogs, and electronic databases, the Library of Congress still finds a use for the card catalogs. Not all of the Library’s materials are  listed in the online catalog. I would like to honor the ‘Good Ole Card Catalog’ with our Pic of the Week, that features a photograph of the Library of Congress serials card catalog. It contains entries for publications like magazines and journals, ranging from 1800-1979 and it is accessible from the Science and Business Reading Room. Although it is not heavily used, it comes in handy when you are looking for additional information about the older serials. There are even hand written cross-references to other publications or notes about the publication that never made it into the online catalog record.  We also use the card catalog to verify call numbers and titles.

And our reading room is not alone in keeping a card catalog close at hand. In fact, the Library still uses its main and its shelf-list card catalogs. They are a great help with inventory projects or in finding an elusive item. You can also find specialized card catalogs/files across the library for  newspapers, rare books, recorded sound and motion picturesThe Card Catalogs of the Library of Congress: a Brief Description by Barbara Marietta Westby and William Sittig (1983) provides much more details about these essential resources.

I would also like to mention that the Law Library has one too! See the In Custodia Legis blog post, Do You Remember How to Use a Card Catalog?

2 Comments

  1. Susan McCoy
    June 16, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    I prefer card catalogs!! I want them back. I love browsing them for books and ideas that I am not even looking for. I have come across so many seemingly unrelated books in my searches that end up being essential to my primary search. Where else can many people gather together looking for information and find it because you asked a fellow searcher or overheard a conversation? And if the computers are down you can still find your book if it is in that library! Also there is the pleasure of feeling the cards and seeing their age and how much they had been used. Now that is a whole beautiful experience : history in the cards, history in the interaction of people …I could go on but words don’t compare to the action. Card catalogs are a world unto themselves! 😉

  2. Janice Rahimi
    June 17, 2011 at 11:34 am

    I love card catelogs! What a wonderful and useful piece of furniture. There were times when I go to the card catalog just to “look” for something. The catelog never disappoints!

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