Ancient Library Research

So You Have to Write a Term Paper!

This book is something else.  I am estimating there were 3 total circs since automation in 1995.  Something inside me wants to meet the poor souls that checked out this book and ask them if it was helpful for writing. I just cringe when I see stuff like this old in public or school libraries.

I will give props to the author for discussing the technology of the time.  Gee, I wonder if this computer thing will “take off”?

I like to think that the librarian is the “key” to the library.  Youngsters, in case you don’t know, that picture below is  of a card catalog…

Sadly I think I remember using this particular interface in the late 80’s.

I hope you enjoyed today’s demonstration of ancient library research



  1. My public library system had that electronic card catalog when I was a kid- late 80s, early 90s. That card catalog at the library was probably my very first ever experience with a computer. I’ve never used a paper system- my school library taught us how they worked, though, multiple times through to high school. Oddly enough, the high school was on a computer system, and we had to keep teaching the adults in the library how to use it (there were always so many people in there, I don’t think all of them were librarians), so they probably thought re-teaching the card catalog was in-kind, or something.

  2. I once found help in a really old paper wring book – but that was only because I had forgotten how to write a bibliography and rules for that don’t change much other then adding in internet sources.

  3. My public library had that same electronic card catalog system in the 80s, 90s, and probably up until 1999, 2000. It was orange on black. My school library had Card Catalog up until the 1994-1995 school year. In high school, we had both the electronic system and the card catalog, and you could choose which you wanted to use (because sometimes (often) the electronic system was down).

  4. We had a card catalog in grade school, but I think that is the exact OPAC the Indianapolis public library system had when I was a kid in the late 80s, early 90s. By the time I was in high school, they had something much more user-friendly, and all of the high schools (even the private ones) used had their books included in the public library catalog, which was great.

    When I was in my first professional librarian position several years ago, a bit of the card catalog was still in the basement. We’d go down there periodically, take out a drawerful of cards, and use them for scrap paper.

  5. Only used three times since 1995, and out of date!
    I wonder what the librarians who should be stock-weeding were doing for the last 16 years?

  6. I miss the card catalog. Our locals only have a few of the e-cats and there is always a line. In the old days, as long as you didn’t need the same drawer, it was easier for many people to use it at one.

    And yes, here in FL we used the old orange and black screen computers into the 2000s.

  7. Who thought of putting the alphabet in that A,B,C,D order? That was a good idea. (Memo to Self: Must learn it one day, might be useful at work in library.)

  8. I’m fascinated by the “Sports AND Literature” topic heading. I’m surprised neither had enough clout among the term paper crowd to deserve their own heading, although I suspect the issue was more space on the screen, given my hazy memory of my family’s first computer.
    My university’s library had stopped updating their card catalog but only recently cleaned out all of the cards. The empty cabinets, which lined the entire side of the first floor lobby, are sitting there, looking so sad.

  9. The next time one of my professors asks about my essay topic, I’m just going to repeat, “None of these. None of these.”

  10. Wow…I think my junior high school library had that exact catalog system, along side the traditional card catalog system. What a blast into the past.

    While computers are definitely faster and more convenient these days, I do miss the old card catalogs. All those little drawers stuffed full of references to different pieces of knowledge…it was always a treasure hunt to find things whenever I went to the library.

  11. I bet the ‘Sports and Literature’ was supposed to be ‘Sports and Leisure’ because there’s another LIterature heading up at the top.

  12. I remember OPAC and not at all fondly! It had all the flaws of modern search engines, but more so. I do miss the card catalog, because of the research options it provided. But the book is not going to help a student today, that’s for certain.

  13. The author of this book is now the president of American Association of School Librarians. She’s my professor in the LIS program at FSU. I think her thoughts on library research are a little different now…

  14. I remember OPEC. It was being used in the King County, WA district at least into the mid 90s. I cut my search engine teeth on it as a kid in the pre-internet days.

  15. we were using that interface for the “on-line card catalog” at my school when i was a young thing. (then again, one of our computer labs was still using those gigantic floppy disks until at least 2001, too…)

  16. That library search interface made me feel warm and fuzzy inside! It looked just like the one I used back when I was in late elementary school and learning to explore the library collection by myself. Good times!

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