October 5, 2012

For the Love of Card Catalogs

Which do you prefer? A searchable, digital database of items in a collection that you may access by computer, like the listing pictured below from the library at Miami University of Ohio
Or the same information typed up on a library catalog card, filed & cross-referenced in a beautiful, oak cabinet? Can you guess my preference? (By the way, I got this catalog card from the information desk at the library. The assistant used it as scrap paper to write down a password for me.)
I do think we do ourselves a disservice when we remove tactility from our lives. For me, staring at a bright screen can never replace or even compete with being able to touch and handle a physical object,  whether it be a newspaper, book, magazine, or library catalog. Sure, we have the capability to completely digitize all written information in the world, replace libraries and bookstores with virtual equivalents. I find that prospect horrifying. Not least because it would remove a huge amount of gorgeous architecture and fittings from our lives. Such as this little gem I photographed while at the main branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, located in Oakland. 
You are looking from the stacks into the dinosaur hall at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. In addition to frosted glass floors, the stacks have windows along both outside walls. The deep window seats are perfect for sitting, browsing, and wiling away hours. With or without The Globe Illustrated Shakespeare left for re-shelving by a previous library patron. Do you have a favorite library?

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