Card-catalogs

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If you do a Google search for “card catalog” it will likely return Pinterest-worthy images of antique furniture for sale — boxy, wooden cabinets with tiny drawers, great for storing knick-knacks, jewelry or art supplies.

But before these cabinets held household objects, they held countless index cards — which, at the time, were the pathways to knowledge and information. A new book from the Library of Congress celebrates these catalogs as the analog ancestor of the search engine.

File This Under Nostalgia: New Book Pays Tribute To The Library Card Catalog

Switch purchase? Switch jobs.

Back in 1983 my high school library was a bit of a joke. It seems we never had more than 2 copies of any book the county put on its required list. What this meant was that everyone was frantically trying to get the same books to complete papers with. Before I could drive this meant getting my poor mom to drive me to every library in the area.

One day our library started asking for volunteers to do a fundraiser to get more materials and namely more copies of the required books. Some of us jumped on board and sold everything from donuts to coupons. We would also hold bake sales, car washes, and etc. We were elated when at the end of the drive we had far exceeded the goals.

We were all promised that we would have our dreams realized over the summer. The school year starts up and we are giddy to see the new books. Imagine our dismay when we get into the library and find that most of the books are gone. Bare shelves glared at us as we went along the rows. Thats when we noticed that the holy grail of the library was also missing - the card catalog file. In its place was two computer terminals - mind you not computers.

We went to the front desk and asked the librarian what was going on. She had decided to get a fancy computer system ‘to make her job easier and cut down on theft’. We were stunned because we did not have a theft problem. Certainly some books would get lost or damaged but not very many. The books were mostly missing because they had been sent to a company to 'have security embedded in them’. The worst part is the librarian overspent and therefore, you guessed it, was not able to purchase more books.

We felt the shame of being used, lied to, and screwed over. It was at this point that we knew revenge was in order. It took myself and a couple of my fellow computer nerds 15 min to figure out what they had done to the books. The security tag was a RF tag (like at stores) on the card pocket of the book. The new cards themselves had metal foil in their center. Without this foil the tag would receive energy from the newly installed gates at the library door and set off an alarm.

I decided to test our knowledge. I grabbed a reference book, threw a gum wrapper in the pocket, shoved it in my bag, and hit the door. I passed out the door without a peep from the gates. After that day we threw our plan into action. We would steal as many books as we could and hide them in any location we could find.

At first we used storage rooms by boxing them up and soon ran out of space. We then started using empty lockers and even putting them in the ceiling on top of divider walls. By the end of the year the librarian was getting frantic. She could not balance her inventory with the new computer system and she was being called out on it thanks to our many complaints. Another genius move was to have then boxes labeled as other textbooks and sent to the warehouse over the summer. This was easy to do since WE were the volunteers that wrote a program to do it and would print the labels.

The librarian ended up losing her job and being investigated for fraud since there seemed to be some missing funds as well. Over the summer the county finally spent the money to fill our book request due to the uproar. It was not until a week before the start of school that they started discovering library books in the extra boxes several teachers received.

This was just the beginning of us getting revenge on some of the teachers. In the end we got our revenge and the original items we worked so hard to get.

Extra: the books never left county property. We boxed most up and sent them to the warehouse. They came back next year.

Also the company finished the other books they had and sent them back midway through the year. This worked to our advantage because the librarian could not see how many were gone until they placed all the secured books on the shelf from the final shipment.

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Library Cards Catalog (@librarycardscatalog) is an ongoing art project that documents library cards from all over the globe. Follow their Tumblr to browse this growing archive of treasured plastic rectangles and learn about the community libraries from whence they came. While you’re at it, go ahead and send them a library card even!

❤️ 💳 ❤️

And oh yeah, don’t forget to support your local library.

dark lips #whatthelibrarianwore #submission via instagram: lularoejessicles

“I think… if it is true that
there are as many minds as there
are heads, then there are as many
kinds of love as there are hearts.”
― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Libraries are Magic!

Around age 10/11 I was diagnosed with ADHD. As long as I took my meds, I could focus in school and could continue my reading habits. But I was only on meds for a few years. I’m not really sure why the meds stopped, maybe my new GP didn’t agree with pumping a young child full of stimulants? I honestly have NO recollection of why my treatment stopped. But it did. So around age 14, I stopped reading regularly.

I would read the mandatory novels for school (maybe, mostly I used Spark Notes) and I would read one or two novels a YEAR for recreation. This continued into adulthood. The problem was, with untreated ADHD I had such a hard time following a book that I would just give up reading anything longer than a short story. It was SO frustrating as someone who had always loved reading.

The only way I could read a novel would be if I set aside the time to read it front to back in one sitting. Otherwise, if I read a chapter here and a chapter there, I would totally forget what was happening. This lead to re-reading the previous chapters over and over, which is not only time consuming but so infuriating. Reading became hyperfocus/all at once or zero focus/none at all.

Because of this, if I feel the urge to read I just re-read the same few books over and over time and again because I’m familiar enough with them that I can follow them if I read them over a longer period of time. (It’s like putting on your favorite movie in the background that you don’t actually have to pay attention to in order to enjoy)

Okay, enough of the tragic backstory. Let’s get to the plot…

Libraries are Magic.

A few days ago I needed to print some stuff and my flat mate’s printer stopped working. Rather than trekking into town to go to the office supply store (where I usually do my printing), I decided to wonder down the street to the library…

Before this week, I could count the number of times I’ve been in a public library in the past twenty years on one hand. I haven’t had a library card since I was 9 years old. This was back when you had to look through the card catalog to find a book, it was a LONG time ago. 

Because of my reading difficulties, I’ve had no use for public libraries. They give me anxiety. I haven’t actually finished a book in over FIVE years. I’ve started a few, but I never finish them. This is not something I am proud of. I feel shame for not being able to read and enjoy novels like I used to when I was a kid. I was always ahead in reading comprehension compared to other kids my age but I feel like now, I still have the reading comprehension of a 12 year old.

Now, Christchurch has a lot of libraries. The Christchurch City Library network consists of 22 libraries for a city with a population of 375,000.  I mean, maybe other cities have this many? But I wouldn’t really know since I’ve never paid attention to them. That just seems like A LOT of libraries in one city!? And the thing is, they are AMAZING libraries. 

I had previously been in about three of them around the city and they are all very modern looking. I remember thinking they seemed pretty nice but I was usually just there to use the computer for 5 minutes, so I never actually explored. 

Last week I read [this post] about libraries and I realized how long it had been since I had REALLY explored a library. Libraries I remembered didn’t have any of these modern wonders people were writing about. I was pretty inspired by that post and so I decided to overcome my anxiety this week and get back into the library. Instead of just running in and out of the library to print what I needed, I decided to get a library card. 

When I walked in, I timidly asked a woman at the help desk for assistance. I told her I wanted to get a library card and she took me over to another desk. Because of my anxiety regarding libraries, I had done extensive research on what I needed to get a library card – so I was already prepared with my ID and proof of address.

She had me fill out the membership form and she opened a drawer and asked me what colour I wanted. You get to pick a colour of library card! (I obviously got pink, seeing as it is the best colour) She registered my card in the system and wrote my name on it and handed it to me. 

I guess she registered that I looked like a lost puppy because she asked if I knew about all the things my brand new card entitled me to. I admitted I hadn’t had a library card in nearly twenty years and she looked as if that was her absolute favorite thing to hear.

She pulled up the CCL website and walked me through EVERY part. I mean EVERY part. She showed me how to search the entire city catalog online, how to places holds (if you want a book from a different branch they will transport it to your favorite branch and keep it on hold for you for only $3!! OR if you have disabilities which limit your access to the library it’s FREE!!), how to create reading lists, how to see what I have checked out and when they’re due back, if I have late fees, basically everything you need when you want books or media. 

THEN she showed me the eLibrary!! With my library card, I have access to over 47,000 ebooks and audio books to download FOR FREE. Including everything from major literary works to cookbooks to scholarly articles to resources on how to learn new hobbies. Basically anything you want is available to you digitally now. Click of a button. 

There are also all sorts of community events and classes you can go to that are all sponsored through the library. 

At this point, I am blown away. I am actually crying at the idea of all of this knowledge and all of these resources being readily available to me FOR FREE

This woman looks at me, sees I’m crying and just smiles the most genuine and loving smile any stranger has ever given me. (I suspect most adults don’t usually have this reaction to getting a library card. But I’m not most adults.) I imagine it must have been pretty satisfying to her to get a REAL reaction to how MAGICAL the library is. Look Claudine (I asked her name), I am 100% here for you taking me on this incredible journey from my faded memories of cranky old librarians and dusty books and jettisoning me into the 21st century. THANK. YOU.

Once she releases me to browse on my own, it is like I have landed in some uncharted territory that is full of spectacular things to experience. 

Our library is complete with self service checkout and return stations, computer areas, flat screen tvs, cozy reading areas, huge media libraries, free wi-fi, some apparently have cafes, others have Xbox360 or PS4 to play, and of course…thousands upon thousands of books. 

I eagerly approached the catalog computer and type in the title of a book our midwife recommended. Bam. Not only does it show me all copies available within the 22 libraries, it shows availability, holds, wait lists etc. I click on the title and navigate to the page that shows it’s available at that branch and where to find it. It was as if I just became my own librarian! 

I’ve always been a fan of numbers so the dewy decimal system is a fave of mine. I have absolutely NO trouble finding the book on the shelf. I traced my fingers over the library sticker and thumb threw the pages and clutched it close to my chest. It was my first library book in twenty years and I was emotional.

I wandered around every section, mind racing with what I should read. I sort of ended up psyching myself out about the fact just because I had access to the library didn’t actually cure my ADHD and reading issues. So I decided to just go print what I had originally come in for and check out the pregnancy book. 

During my two hour visit, I had to ask for help about five times. But after my experience with Claudine, I didn’t feel ashamed to have to ask questions that were probably common sense. The workers helped me every time and never made me feel judged, even when I asked where the kids chapter books were. Or how do I log in to the computer now that I have a card. Or how do I check stuff out.

When I scanned my card at the checkout computer, it felt like that beep was the indication of a whole new exciting part of my adult life. I cannot even describe how happy I was to check out a book. 

I now have the CCL app on my phone, a list of books to check out and a plan to go back this weekend. I even applied to be a book shelver at one of the nearby branches AND I started reading a new novel today!!

I am really obsessed with the idea that these great big, amazingly accessible, places of adventure exist and it’s FREE. I feel like I’m a kid all over again.I cannot wait to see where this rekindled passion leads me.

TL;DR:

LIBRARIES ARE MAGICAL! AND FREE! AND EVEN IF YOU HAVE DISABILITIES PEOPLE ARE (PROBABLY) GOING TO BE NICE TO YOU AND HELP YOU FIND WHATEVER YOU NEED!

So go to your local library, check it out. PLEASE! I bet it will blow your mind.