Monday, August 11, 2008

Card Catalogs

Have you ever noticed how the paper card catalog has become a kind of badge of honor among librarians? "When I worked with paper card catalogs" is like a golden stamp that means you are intellectually untouchable. You know All.

When I was in library school, all the professors assumed none of us had ever worked with paper catalogs. Sure, we'd used them until we were 15 or so, but we'd never really WORKED with them. We were but babes in the metaphorical woods of TRUE library work.

Of course, I had worked with paper card catalogs, in college of all places. I worked in an archive, and we weren't part of the ILS, so we used paper. I learned how to type out main entry cards, and what spacing, punctuation, etc. to use, and how far to scroll down on the card before putting the other terms on the back, and how to file cards (those metal rods really threw me for a loop for about 15 minutes until I figured out how to pop them out).

But I think that working with the paper shouldn't be such a badge of honor anymore. Working with the paper sucked, yes, but was it really such back-breaking work that we all should wish we could repeat it so that we can all "know" the hardship of working with typewriters and small index cards that inspire paper cuts just by being within 50 feet of a human being? I say no, and thank Goodness that we now have computers and databases to help us avoid such atrocities.

1 comment:

Jennie said...

C'mon! Knowing the secret of having to pop out the metal rod makes you old skool cool!

But paper does get lorded over younger librarians all the time. I kinda like being able to throw it back in their face.

What I REALLY hate is now people assume I've never used a card catalog and that I don't understand the horrors of trying to find something with one.

Dude. I'm not THAT young!

"Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." —Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril.