Once Upon a Time...

Then & Now - Once Upon a Time Spring 2016

Card catalogs are making a comeback these days, but not in libraries. Now they’re considered vintage and antique furniture for homes and businesses. (Next time you sit down to watch The Big Bang Theory, take notice of the beautiful catalog in Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment.) What used to be so daunting, and yet wonderful in all ofits organizational beauty is now, well, pretty hip. Mentalfloss. com even dedicated a recent article to the new uses for the card catalog, from coffee tables with ample storage to hideaways for everything from sewing supplies to shoes to wine. They can be hard to come by, but when found—and in good shape—card catalogs can fetch a few thousand dollars for the seller.

But for those of you young enough never to have spent an afternoon in your elementary school library for card-catalog training, this was the key to making your way around the library and locating the latest Hardy Boys mystery or that obscure text on early American poetry. Instead of connecting to Wi-Fi and handily typing your request into the search bar, book-seekers at Denison doing research prior to 1996 (that’s the year the college switched over to the online system) had to conduct what today would be considered a painstaking search by author or subject, sifting through card after card until they located the item they were hunting down. That precious card would then allow them to jot down the call number and continue their search in the stacks. We wouldn’t want to revert to the old system, but we sure would love to see one of these old catalogs again—even if it’s just filled with sewing supplies.

Published May 2016