05 November 2013

Are you old enough to remember "card catalogues"

Not only am I old enough to remember them, but I created one of my own in the 1970s, with thousands of references on 3x5" cards, when I was a graduate student.

Photo of the Library of Congress in 1941, from the interesting Vintage Libraries tumblr.


  1. Could you explain what are these? I probably wasn't born by then.

    1. Here, let me look that up for you... (sigh)


  2. I've worked in libraries for over 16 years.... I miss the card catalogues. Wish I had snagged one when we 'updated'.

  3. I seem to remember the card catalogs in all of the schools I went to were always being defaced by morons who would just randomly pull cards out, breaking the paper hole at the bottom of the cards and either sticking them back in out of order or simply throwing them away.

    People are stupid.

  4. Being born in '50, I remember these well. I also remember using computer type punch cards to register for classes at the UofA.

  5. I worked as a school librarian from 1969 to 1977 and remember card catalogs quite well. I used to have students ask me what I would do if I came in and found all the cards out of the catalog. I would always tell them that I had just added their names to the list of students who would be working after school to sort out the mess. Thankfully that catastrophe never happened.

  6. I recently started working in a college library that of course, uses a database as a catalogue system. Even though I used the card catalogue system in my youth, I have nothing more than a passing nostalgic feeling for the old way. We have too many new materials routing in on a weekly basis for there not to be a computerized system. Plus, it allows students to order books from other campuses.
    The old catalogue cards haven't gone to waste, though. We now use them to train staff on how to properly read and organize books based on the Library of Congress system.

  7. I started college in 1997. I used card catalogs my freshman and sophomore years of college. So they're not THAT ancient.

  8. I grew up with card catalogs and I do miss them. They allowed for browsing and serendipity so much more than our online catalogs do.

    However. I do NOT miss filling out check-out cards or ILL request slips so I guess it kind of breaks even.

    If someone could develop a 'card catalog browse' for our online catalog, that would be the best of both worlds.

  9. I remember seing a card catalog once when I was 14, but nobody told me how to use it. I just asked for the books I needed as everybody else did...
    I recently qualified as a librarian. 75% of the cursus was on "how to use a computer", databases, various catalogs, keywords, thesaurii... and during those two years at university, we weren't taught how handle a card catalog or how it could be managed.
    Sometimes, I wonder how librarians would cope if, whatever the reason, computers weren't available anymore ?


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