Friday, April 4, 2014

a card catalog!

So I was riding in the elevator with a woman resident, and we got talking about a book her husband had written about the history of Portland. I had tried to find it on without success. "Oh, there's a copy in the library," she said. "At least we donated a copy, so it should be there."

I had not been to the Terwilliger Plaza library. It makes no claims to completeness -- it's mostly mysteries and thrillers, with a sizeable collection of large-print editions. But the Portland history sounded interesting, so I dropped in. It has a card catalog! An actual card catalog, with little stiff-paper cards for the books, organized by title in one drawer and by author in another. You tick through them with your index finger, looking for the card for the book you want, then going from the information on that card to the actual shelves on which the physical cardboard-and-paper books rest.

It has been a Very Long Time since I dealt with card catalogs and searching through shelves and checking books out by writing my name on cards from the pocket on the inside of the cover. (I couldn't find the book I wanted, but I found another one that looked interesting, as one always does.) Oddly, it took me back to college days and the peculiar whispery echoing spaces in the main reading room of Carnegie Library at Oberlin College. This resurrects a general sense of historic guilt because I was never as thorough or as deep in my researches as the topics deserved, in part because there was always this other book that looked interesting.

But a card catalog! Wow!


  1. How delightful! I've spent a ridiculous amount of time among card catalogs and can understand how glad you must be to find one right there on the premises.

  2. "... there was always this other book that looked interesting." Sounds just like another Gemini I know! (John)

  3. scan 'em and give 'em a web search! :-)