Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Card catalogs - making a graceful exit

Photo credit: sukisuki
This was something I’d been meaning to post for awhile, but kept getting sidetracked. Although most (if not all) libraries have stopped using the old physical card catalogs, it seems that there are many out there that still have them, either in storage or out in public view, just not in use. Lately, I’ve caught a few blurbs here and there about catalogs that are finally being axed, mainly from academic libraries. One such mention was about the University of Michigan's card catalog getting the boot, but not without some nice nostalgic photos as a fond farewell, in addition to an educational pictorial. It is interesting to note that one case is being kept intact and on display for historical purposes.

Some universities are taking a creative approach. The University of South Carolina sent their analog catalog cards off in style with “It’s All in the Cards,” a year-long series of events honoring the card catalog, including a poetry and short prose contest inviting the composition to be written on the back of old catalog cards. Then there is the University of Iowa’s cARTalog project, which aimed to “find as many creative uses as possible for the salvaged card catalog cards and generate a sense of community among those who love the card catalog.”

The cards are neat, but I’m more interested in the drawer units specifically. Over the years, I’ve come across a few Craigslist and eBay ads for old card catalog units, but none have been in a price range or driving distance to my liking. A couple years ago there was one available at a reasonable price at what would’ve been a three hour drive (one way) near one of my former roommates so I figured I could pick up the card catalog and knock out a visit all at once, but it never happened. Perhaps I started thinking too much about what I would do with it once I got it home (not considering how I would get it up two floors) since I don’t own too many things that need to go in long narrow drawers. One of my favorite design blogs, Apartment Therapy, does provide some interesting suggestions though should I ever fully commit to library chic.

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