I dozed my way through the last two shows on Home & Garden TV tonight, but no worries — they are taped, and I can re-watch them tomorrow. Sleeping felt so very good! I awoke to find a FaceBook post with a picture of a card catalogue drawer…one of those “do you remember these?” postings.
I started thinking about how much I missed being able to physically leaf through a card catalogue. Sure, calling up a subject in a computerized file is probably more efficient, and definitely quicker. But with a card catalogue, the journey often mattered as much as the final destination. Just as it was so satisfying to discover the books on either side of the target book on the bookshelf, the cards before and after the one you were searching for often held riches beyond imagining. Computerized catalogs have taken that delightful “browsing” time from us in exchange for an efficiency of questionable beauty.
My favorite card catalogue was the one at Cuesta College in the late 1960s. Dr. Lyndon Vivrette, the Head Librarian (and also my boss), had a marvelous sense of humor and loved to plant little surprises in his library. A staple in the “N” drawer of the card catalogue was a roll of Necco candies at the back of the drawer. If a student discovered them and brought them up to the desk, his question was generally, “What drawer were they in?” When the student replied, “The N drawer,” he would smile contentedly and acknowledge they were correctly filed. (They were also cross-referenced with a card in the “C” drawer…as in C for candy.)
One of my duties at the Cuesta College Library was typing the catalogue cards for the new books as they arrived. It was a time-consuming task, demanding absolute accuracy and attention to detail. Imagine my delight when I discovered the next year at Fresno State that the cards could be ordered through our vendor when the books were purchased…and all I had to do was file them correctly!
I am sure that somewhere there is a little library that is not connected to the world-wide-web, but is dependent on a card catalogue to search its collection. I hope to discover one some day soon, so I can introduce my granddaughters to one of the vanishing joys of a visit to the library.