Health Magazine

Card Catalog? What’s a Card Catalog?

By Chp

-Contributed by Emily Gainer

Library research has changed dramatically since 1983.  Or has it?  I pondered this question while looking at books to add to the CHP collection.  I discovered this book: Library Use: A Handbook for Psychology by Jeffrey G. Reed and Pam M. Baxter (1983), donated by Francis Graham.

Card Catalog? What’s a Card Catalog?

The recommendations in this book for finding sources vary from current methods.  For example, there is an entire section on locating a book, which covers using the card catalog.  Remember these?  The 3”x5” cards contained author, title, call number, publishing information, and subjects.  Researchers physically flipped through the cards, organized alphabetically by title, author, or subject.  Library Use briefly mentions computers but clarifies that “most computer searches are done by a librarian experienced in the use of computer databases” (page 92).

Card Catalog? What’s a Card Catalog?

While the approaches may have changed because of technology and the internet, basic information and methods haven’t changed as much.  For example, the online library catalog contains the same information that is found on those 3”x5” cards.  Researchers type in title, author, or keywords, rather than flip through cards.  Also, Library Use offers this advice: “start early, allow yourself plenty of time, and avoid the end-of-the-semester rush” (page 14).  Still true!

Card Catalog? What’s a Card Catalog?

I added Library Use to the University of Akron Libraries online catalog, where you can search for other books in the CHP collection.  Why does the CHP keep this book, if some of the information is no longer relevant?  The book itself is a piece of history.  It documents not only how psychologists conducted research, but how libraries functioned before the widespread use of computers and electronic databases.  And, for those who remember, the card catalog may bring back a bit of nostalgia.


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