Card catalogue

Back in 2013, (5 September) I wrote an enthusiastic blog post about using Online Public Access Catalogues.

Online catalogues give the information seeker the added great advantages of being:

  • available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,  365 days a year
  • accessible from your home computer, so that you can do much  of your preparatory book search (and increasingly now, even journal article searching) before even leaving your house!

Nevertheless, I was saddened to read last week that OCLC (the library cataloguing cooperative) have printed their last library catalogue cards. During the forty four years that OCLC has produced catalogue cards for libraries, they have printed over 1.9 billion cards! (1) The use of card catalogues has steadily declined as libraries moved to online catalogues, and the few card catalogues which do remain are no longer being updated.

As a frequent library user I soon became deft at flicking through the cards to find what I was looking for. I owe my nimble fingers to using card catalogues when I was younger.

I began my career in librarianship when only card catalogues existed; working in my local public library on Saturdays while studying for A levels in the sixth form. I still remember the concentration it initially took when adding cards to a drawer, the rod holding the cards in place had to be carefully manoeuvred to insert a new card. The drawer had to be moved far enough out to manipulate the cards and rod. My fear was that the whole drawer and its contents would fall to the floor in a heap, which would then need complete re-sorting and replacing into the drawer – of course it never happened.

Whether metal or wooden, obsolete library card catalogue cabinets are, quite rightly, popular items for re-use and they can often be found on Ebay.

People have come up with inventive uses for old library card catalogue cabinets and cupboards, my favourites are CD storage, wine bottle holders, and small potted plants being displayed in open drawers.

There are even several card catalogue boards on Pinterest (check out My Card Catalog Cabinet, card catalogue obsession, and Card Catalogues. Yes Please!).

    (1)   OCLC Abstracts  vol. 18, no 40  [05 October 2015]