University of Virginia: A Collaborative Effort Will Preserve Physical Card Catalog Containing 4 Million Cards
From UVA Today:
As preparations continue for the renovation of Alderman Library, which replaced the Rotunda as UVA’s central library in 1938, a volunteer effort is preserving one small part of its past: the card catalog.
Created over a 50-year span from 1939 to 1989, that catalog grew to about 4 million cards in 65 cabinets with 4,000 drawers.
These little index cards from the library’s old physical card catalog might contain information that is unique about a particular book – and therefore, the library’s holdings and the University’s history. The information neatly typed on the cards – which library workers sometimes supplemented with handwritten notes on front and back – includes details that in many cases are not typically part of the electronic catalog system, Virgo, that the University Library switched to in 1989. At the time, the catalog was transferred by scanning that captured only the front of the cards.
Last week, as English professor Elizabeth Fowler moved stacks of cards in an orderly fashion into file boxes labeled with particular call number sequences, she said, “We don’t know what future research will be like. We can’t predict that.”
Fowler, who described the library as “the laboratory of the humanities,” was one of about 40 volunteers who answered a call to help pack up the cards. Two Ph.D. candidates in the English department, Neal Curtis and Samuel Lemley, are spearheading the volunteer project. Fowler described them as “selfless” for taking the time to help the next generation of researchers.
In addition to volunteers packing up the cards this week, their effort will continue with fund-raising to ensure that the information from the catalog cards will be available eventually through the online catalog.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.