Today we bid a fond farewell to the last of the KSL card catalogs. They are being decommissioned after decades of noble service to make room for more shelving in our Special Collections vaults. We are keeping some of the cards that still contain valuable information. Bon voyage, old friends!

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“Remember my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker” ― Bram Stoker, Dracula

The Cutting Edge of Library Technology!

Throughout history, libraries have always been on the cutting edge and the first to make widespread use of the newest technology.  The Cleveland Public Library was no exception, as you can see below. 

Shown here is Kathleen Dowd, Catalog Department, Main Library, 1937. Miss Dowd is operating one of the Library’s typewriters specially fitted to accommodate two catalog cards simultaneously, enabling rapid and accurate duplication of the usually complex material which forms the card’s contents.

A motor-driven eraser speeds the work in the Catalog Department! Photo taken May 1937. Seriously? Is erasing that hard that you need a motor-driven eraser? I will never again complain about today’s youth…

Shown here is the Library’s multigraph, used for quantity production of catalog cards. May, 1937. The multigraph was an early copy machine that had the distinction of reproducing letters that looked like they were typewritten.

A Library employee using the Telautograph machine, ca. 1925.  The telautograph was an early precursor to the fax machine, reproducing hand written information by transmitting electrical impulses from one station to another. 

The Library’s Telautograph machine was used to send information between the Public Catalog room (pictured above, ca. 1925) to the Sociology Division and the Technology Division.

One of Cleveland Public Library’s earliest online catalog terminals. The Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) was made available for use by selected Main Library subject departments on an experimental basis in the Summer of 1980. By the end of the year, the OPAC service had been extended to all public departments in the Main Library and Business and Science Building. The Library’s catalog of 1.2 million individual titles was fully online by December 1st, 1982.   

Dr. Ervin Gaines, Director and Ms. Marion Huttner, Deputy Director, using the Library’s new Online Public Access Catalog, early 1980′s. To the dismay of many staff and patrons, Dr. Gaines closed the Main Library Public Catalog room on February 1st, 1984.  It held 5 million cards at the time and was long regarded as the nerve center of the collections.

A Hand at the Library

“Pardon me, do you have anything on leviathans?” the young man asked hopefully.

“I do believe we do, yes,” the reference librarian remarked. “Just a moment, please.” With her skeletal right hand, she removed her left and sent it scurrying to a massive card catalog.

“Living or undead?”

“Living, please.”

“Monstrous or mortal?

“Hm… monstrous, I believe.”

The librarian nodded and continued chatting politely with the patron. After a few minutes, the arrant hand returned with a small pile of thick, off-white cards inscribed with titles of various books. The words were written in a small, beautiful script.

The librarian perused the cards while her hand reattached itself then said, “This way, please” and floated towards a darkened hallway.


Mostly gone, but not forgotten is the card catalogue. Although the Peabody Institute uses an online database for library materials the card catalogue in the research room next to the archives still serves a purpose. For many years the librarians would look through the local papers and type out on index cards the names, places and events that took place in Peabody. There is a wealth of genealogy information in these drawers along with forgotten history about Peabody.

Imagine being a botanist in Asgard. You work directly under the orders of Queen Frigga and help her maintain her garden, as well as finding new samples to study and add to her collection.

On many occasions, Queen Frigga has you running to the library for books on plants from other realms. It is here where you always happen to run into Prince Loki. He often assists you in your quest for informative books on plant life.

One day, after a long day of cataloging and maintaining Queen Frigga’s gardens, you return to your quarters to find a calla lily sitting on your desk with a little card attached to it. On the card, written in cursive letters are the words “beauty.” You find the flower rather curious and chose to press it and keep it and its card in a book.

This continues day after day. You return to your quarters to find a new flower with a new meaning, and every day you press it and keep it and its card in a book, all the while having no idea who they’re from. Finally one day your find a pair of flowers left for you on the library shelf as you go to retrieve a book for the Queen. An iris and a red tulip. An iris means “a message.” Whilst a red tulip is “a declaration of love.” You can’t help but blush.

You feel a pair of hands wrap around your waist and you are shocked to find Loki standing behind you. “I see you’ve found my message.”
He smiles.