January 17, 2021

After Nearly 2 Billion Printed, OCLC Prints Last Library Catalog Cards

From OCLC:

OCLC printed its last library catalog cards today [October 1, 2015], officially closing the book on what was once a familiar resource for generations of information seekers who now use computer catalogs and online search engines to access library collections around the world.

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OCLC built the world’s first online shared cataloging system in 1971 and, over decades, merged the catalogs of thousands libraries through a computer network and database. That database, now known as WorldCat, not only made it possible for libraries to catalog cooperatively, but also to share resources held in other libraries on the network. It also made it possible for libraries to order custom-printed catalog cards that would be delivered to the library already sorted and ready to be filed.

OCLC began automated catalog card production in 1971, when the shared cataloging system first went online. Card production increased to its peak in 1985, when OCLC printed 131 million. At peak production, OCLC routinely shipped 8 tons of cards each week, or some 4,000 packages. Card production steadily decreased since then as more and more libraries began replacing their printed cards with electronic catalogs. OCLC has printed more than 1.9 billion catalog cards since 1971.

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“We’ve already jumped into the new world,” said Nevine Haider, Head of Technical Services, Concordia College Library, in Bronxville, New York, whose catalog cards were among the last printed today. “We’ve had online public access to our collection for years. The print card catalog has served as our back-up. So we’re ready to move on.”

This final print run marked the end of a service that has steadily decreased over the past few decades as libraries have moved their catalogs online.

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“The vast majority of libraries discontinued their use of the printed library catalog card many years ago,” said [Skip] Prichard, [OCLC President and CEO.] “The printing of the last cards today is largely symbolic. But it is worth noting that these cards served libraries and their patrons well for generations, and they provided an important step in the continuing evolution of libraries and information science.”

Read the Complete OCLC Announcement

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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