Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Fascinating Look at the Library Card Catalog


Those of us of a certain age can recall the joy of flipping through the cards of a library card catalog. A few years back, I walked into a rural library and was ecstatic to find that they still had one! Yes, a card catalog may be “prehistoric Google” as the internet meme states and I certainly wouldn’t want to trade the ease with which I can search for and request a book via my computer. However, card catalogs served a useful purpose for a century.

 The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures by the Library of Congress is a delight for anyone who enjoys history, literature, or libraries. It traces the history of how books were organized in libraries (going all the way back to the Library at Alexandria); how the card catalog was ultimately developed; how technology impacted it; and how it has evolved into the computer systems we use today. Anyone reading this book will gain a whole new appreciation for those index cards and the people whose job it was to create them. 

In addition to the narrative, there are many full-color photos and illustrations of classic works of literature and their accompanying card catalog entry in the Library of Congress. Many of the cards have notations on them in addition to the standard information – I wish that there had been more text explaining why and what information had been added.  

Overall, The Card Catalog was enjoyable to both read and look at. It would make a great gift for the library lover in your life.