The Card Catalog is Dead; Long Live the Card Catalog

The Boston Herald reports on a project undertaken by Greenfield, MA Community College Librarian Hope Schneider.

On a wall in the corner of Greenfield Community College's Nahman-Watson Library, 128 artifacts from the library's card catalog hang preserved in a glass case — signed by the authors who penned the very books to which the cards once led.

The project has been 14 years in the making for librarian Schneider, who wanted to memorialize the cards after the library's catalog went digital in 1999. In the years that followed, Schneider sent cards to local authors and artists, asking if they would sign their card and make some contribution to the display. A decade later, after GCC's library was expanded, she resumed her quest — sending letters across the country to novelists, poets and politicians.

Library Director Deborah Chown said Schneider's project captures a time when people would find new books through serendipity — simply because it was next to another book or classified through a similar subject matter. Chown and Schneider don't deny the advantages that new library technology offers — the opportunity to search rapidly through online databases and access books, journals and newspaper articles.

But there was also some surprise and sadness when a tour of prospective students came through the library, saw the display and didn't recognize the cards.


>>some surprise and sadness when a tour of prospective students came through the library, saw the display and didn't recognize the cards.

Many, if not most, libraries have been using OPACs vs card catalogs for the last twenty to twenty five years. So a ten year old student seeing the cards is looking at a technology that stopped used fifteen years before they were born.

I imagine they were prospective community college students, maybe 18. At any rate, they should have recognized or at least figured out what the cards represented.

I'm 27 and the last time I used a card catalog was when I was in elementary school. By that time our public libraries had already switched to an OPAC (I used it when I was pre-2nd grade), but my tiny school library still had a card catalog (which I believe they got rid of soon after...around when these kids were born).

I'm sure if they had looked closely at the cards they could have figured out what they were, but I don't think we should ever expect young people to be able to identify an archaic piece of technology just on sight.

Very cool idea! Wonder whose signatures she's amassed...

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