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The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary…

The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures

by Library of Congress, Carla Hayden

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I spent a pleasant, rainy afternoon perusing this history of the card catalog.

The book gives a good overview of library history (the roots of the card catalog go all the way back to ancient Sumer) with a heavy emphasis on the Library of Congress's role as the leading U.S. library and producer of card-catalog cards. Although the barely credited personal author Peter Devereaux shows a healthy respect for those three-by-five index cards of old, he warns readers not to get too nostalgic for the days of the card catalog. The old card catalogs made huge demands on libraries' available spaces, and filing all those cards was a tedious, never-ending task. Online public access catalogs (OPACs), which have replaced the card catalog in most settings, are an improvement in almost every way.

Lavishly illustrated with facsimiles of classic book covers and their corresponding card catalog cards, this volume is essentially a coffee-table book without the oversized dimensions. I wish there had been more explanation of the cryptic notations on the reproduced cards. Still, I found this book a worthy tribute to a bygone library era. Highly recommended. ( )
  akblanchard | Jun 29, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It was hard to believe that someone could write 227 pages on library card catalogs, but in reality, three quarters of those pages are photos. Written by the Library of Congress, The Card Catalog: Books, Cards and Literary Treasures includes a short history on the evolution of the card catalog and is mostly a venue to display various books in its collection (mostly first editions)...alongside of which is a copy of an index card from a card catalog. This is all fine with me.

For those of us who are library users, the card catalog is a thing of the past...unless, like me, you have one in your home. Those user friendly little index cards detailing the pertinent information about a book have gone electronic and there is no more flipping through cards to find what you're looking for...as lamented by various authors and poets when asked to sign catalog cards of their works for an exhibit.

The various great libraries of the world, especially the one in ancient Alexandria, needed some way of cataloging their holdings. As writing surfaces evolved from papyrus to codex to paper, the ability to catalog library holdings improved, both from the framework of the writing implements as well as the system by which items were cataloged. Most of us are familiar with the Dewey Decimal System and some of us with the Library of Congress Subject Headings.

The Library of Congress itself evolved from a library to support the fledgling United States Congress to becoming the premier library in the world, supplying cataloging information to libraries worldwide.

One tidbit of note: in the initial training programs for librarians in the United States, the penmanship of an index card used for cataloging purposes was one of the courses.

If you're looking for some easy reading about books or want to learn a little bit about the cataloging of books, The Card Catalog is an enjoyable two day read. Book lovers will enjoy this immensely. ( )
  EdGoldberg | Jun 22, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I very much enjoyed reading this gorgeous hardback book filled with lovely illustrations and photos focused on the history of the card catalog and the Library of Congress. I especially appreciated viewing the photos of the famous first edition book covers. It brought back many pleasant memories of my childhood . . . miss those days of the paper card catalogs. This book is recommended to both historians and bibliophiles. ( )
  myra.reads | Jun 20, 2017 |
A beautifully constructed book, with an easy, readable history of cataloging and card catalogs, with interspersed images of library cards from the Library of Congress and a images of the corresponding book. It is quite informative and interesting, if you like the history of books.

I am just barely old enough to remember, in the late 1980s and early 1990s: being taught about the card catalogs by the ancient-looking, spinsterish librarians; the ponderous-looking drawers of wood with metal facings; thumbing through the subject cards, author cards, and title cards; the text on the differently colored cards in any number of typewriting and handwriting styles; jotting down call numbers on slips of paper with short pencils; finding the book.

If you're nostalgic for the old cards, you'll find this a perfectly fun book. An excellent look at a lost form of information cataloging, indexing, and presentation. ( )
  tuckerresearch | Jun 17, 2017 |
I purchased this book for myself as a birthday present because of the reviews here (since I didn't win one ! )
  book58lover | Jun 9, 2017 |
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