Friday, June 01, 2018

Booknote: The Card Catalog

Library of Congress, The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2017. ISBN: 9781452145402.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: photography, libraries, history, card catalogs
Format: hardback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison  County (KY) Public Library 

On the surface, this book may sound boring, but it is not. The book is a history of the card catalog, its rise, and fall. We see much of this history through the view of the Library of Congress, which grew to supply catalog cards to libraries nationwide among the many things the Library of Congress does. Along the way, we also get some great photos of books and artifacts from the Library of Congress, many with their matching catalog card.

The book is arranged simply into five chapters plus a short foreword and an introduction. The foreword is written by Carla Hayden, the current Librarian of Congress (as of this post). The text for each chapter is fairly short. The text is then followed by some nice photos of books and other artifacts from the Library of Congress' collections. For those who may wish to read more about libraries and library cataloging, the book includes a select bibliography of ten works.

The photos and illustrations are the strength of the book. The narrative text is good and interesting, but at the end of the day, you really come for the illustrations and photos. It is fascinating to see a catalog card next to the item it describes. In the early days, catalog cards were handwritten. In fact, one of the skills you learned in library school was "library hand" so you could write catalog cards. Yet librarians, being individuals, could vary, so if you look closely you may see small variations in the otherwise uniform library hand.

Overall, the book is a pleasure to read and look over. I recommend this book for all libraries. Readers who enjoy books about libraries and books will enjoy this one.

5 out of 5 stars.

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