Sunday, June 29, 2008

Remember These? - Friday 6/27/2008

I miss the check-out cards that used to be in all the library books. I liked to look at them and see what sort of life the book had had, based on the dates handwritten in early books and stamped in red, blue and black later on.

Sometimes they had a very active early life, checked out at each possible opportunity in two- or three-week stints for a year or more. Sometimes they languished for months between readings, sometimes they experienced a flurry of attention later in life. Maybe a teacher who discovered the book or remembered it and assigned it was responsible.

There's no trail left in this book, a 1958 edition of Exploring with Fremont: The Private Diaries of Charles Preuss. There is only this pocket.

See how the fine has been changed from 2 cents, to 3 cents to 5 cents? Now I think it's 25 cents a day. Inflation-wise, that's pretty reasonable.

This book is probably experiencing a little renaissance across the country. Like me, others heard it mentioned on a recent episode of This American Life. I saw at least one other person on Good Reads who referenced it.

I worked at the Rosenfeld Management Library at UCLA in the last half of the 1990s, when we converted from a card catalog to an online version. There was a great gnashing of teeth amongst the old-timers and the new traditionalists. As much as I loved the old cards, the new system is really much more accessible and easy to use.

I was one of the people who pulled cards from the books as we checked them out, and added barcode after barcode. I was one of the people who oversaw the dismantling of the old way of doing things. It was kind of sad.

A small beautiful wooden card catalog from the management library's Special Collections room lives in my pantry now. Rather than cards it holds baby food bottles filled with spare nails, screws and house parts.

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