Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Do you remember the Card Catalogue?

This was me in the 1960s, complete with the long hair.

The only way we underclassmen could access the ten story tall college library was to use the card catalog, write a request slip, and send a page to find the book.  No browsing allowed.
But when I took some library science courses I was allowed in the inner domain -- and could browse.
As a grad student I was allowed in, no question.
And then I took a part-time job at the archives. What fun, spending all day working with Civil War Documents and running up and down the different levels of the stacks.

When I finally graduated with a masters in library science, Baltimore County public library was on the cutting edge --they had Book Catalogs. (but they kept the card catalogue as back-up.) What a pain. It was out of date the minute it was printed and we ended up searching through the main book and three supplements before the next year's catalogue was printed.

Then Microfische catalogues -- in a long strip a foot wide, instead of individual microfiche cards. Suddenly there was this huge machine between us and the person needing help. We turned a huge handle and they could see that we were working hard to find what they wanted.
That quickly morphed into reel to reel microfiche. To move the microfiche to find the catalog information, all we needed to do was press a little button. Less work than the larger machine, but the patrons couldn't see that we were searching and complained that we were sitting there doing nothing to help them.
 (and the teens would sit at the public catalogs, racing each other to see who could get to the end of the reel faster -- making it jump off the reel and we had to call for repairs.

Then the original first computer was placed in the library (300 baud)  It was meant only to be a check out system, but we librarians grabbed it, pointed out that it was perfect to help us find books and library material, and computers as search tools in the library was born.  The year later we got a faster computer catalog -- 900 baud. That was when we discovered that 300 baud was slow. (it had seem so speedy to us, compared to the microfiche.) Every year or two the computers became faster and faster.

Somewhere along in here the catalogue department decided that it would finally be okay to get rid of the card catalogue, which had been used as back up all this time.  Each library branch then used all those old cards as scrap cards -- to write the computer information down and carry with us to the shelves to help patrons find the material they needed.
What a shock 10 years later when we finally ran out of old catalogue cards and had to (oh no) cut sheets of paper into catalogue card size pieces for our scrap cards.

S0 -- do YOU remember the card catalogue?

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