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Cards from the Library Catalogs – Want some?

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The Library Staff at the Brooklyn Museum has developed an Online Catalog and is now inviting you (yes you) to breathe new life into the old catalog cards. Contact them at Library@BrooklynMuseum.org if you wish to visit and take some of the cards with minimal strings attached (you must report back to show them what you created with the cards). Keith Duquette‘s creation (below) is brilliant!

Keith DuQuette, Library Preservation Associate at the Brooklyn Museum, has created some wonderful “bookshelves” from the cards which are sold for the benefit of the Library.

Want more? See more card catalog art here!

Searching For The Lost Card Catalog

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Charles Ammi Cutter made the first explicit statement regarding the objectives of a bibliographic system in his Rules for a Printed Dictionary Catalog in 1876. According to Cutter, those objectives were:

1. to enable a person to find a book of which either of the following is known (identifying objective)

•the author
•the title
•the subject
•the category

2. to show what the library has (collocating objective)

•by a given author
•on a given subject
•in a given kind of literature

3. to assist in the choice of a book (evaluating objective)

•as to its edition (bibliographically)
•as to its character (literary or topical)

(Make your own catalog card here!)

Card catalogs were a very complex technology developed to organize and provide access to vast information resources housed in libraries. Built around the intersection of like data represented in different ways, card catalogs let searchers not only locate a specific resource, but also find other related resources in a collection.

Resources were reduced to a surrogate record that was described on a catalog card (3” x 5” with a hole in the bottom middle for the retaining rod). Title cards described a particular work and were organized alphabetically by title. Similarly, author cards collocated all of the works by a particular author and subject cards provided links to similar works. A second set of catalog cards called a shelf list was maintained by librarians with a single card for each object in the collection sorted in the order in which they should be found on the shelf. This facilitated a physical inventory of the collection.

Searching a card catalog required a good deal of manual dexterity as long catalog drawers often had to be removed from a storage rack for access. With each drawer holding hundreds of cards, searching was a very physical task. Use of the retaining rods for swordplay, while a way to break up the tedium of searching, was not appreciated by library staff. And dropping a drawer without the rod was a right of passage for that same library staff as was graduating from filing above the rod. Obselteskills.com

Bibliotheca Publica: An Endangered Species

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More art advocating for libraries! Mixed media artist, Mindy Nierenberg, is one of five artists featured in “5 x 5,” the Tufts University Art Gallery Summer 2008 Exhibition. Her site-specific art installation, “Bibliotheca Publicus: An Endangered Species,” calls attention to the current and very serious issue of public library budget cuts, while also highlighting the public library’s importance to the community it serves.

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[Mindy Nierenberg’s] Bibliotheca Publica: An Endangered Species pays homage to the public library as the artist’s refuge and laments the demise of the library as a cultural and funding priority. The installation has four components: quotations printed on recycled card catalog cards; altered hardcover books with handwritten notes by Medford residents about what they have discovered at the library; an oak card catalog case containing information about libraries and pieces of ephemera; and a library desk, chair, and lamp. -from the Tufts University Art Gallery website.

Also, as part of the installation, a slide show reveals local community members’ thoughts about their libraries and a space is set up where viewers may write postcards to local officials about the importance of funding their library. These postcards will be mailed at the close of the exhibition.

“5×5,” the Fifth Annual Juried Summer Exhibition at the Tufts University Art Gallery, will be held from June 5 –August 10, 2008. The gallery hours are Wednesdays to Sundays, noon to 5p.m. The Tufts University Art Gallery is located in the Aidekman Arts Center on Talbot Avenue on the Tufts University Campus in Medford, MA.