JF Ptak Science Books Post 2287
This is a short and stubby flare sent up 200 feet into the dark, a little missile celebrating the card catalog. I remember being so heartbroken seeing the individual drawers of the Library of Congress card file up int he stacks, way back in the day when they'd still give you orange stacks passes if you could present an admirable-enough case for needing access all on your own--I imagine that the file drawers were stored away near the Qs which is what I usually wanted to see. Anyway there they were, hundreds of them no doubt, hundreds and hundreds. They were there because the cards had been photocopied, or something, and the entire rig on the reading room floor replaced, opened for more space. I don't recall the disposition of them for certain but I do believe they didn't last very long, sent to the great card catalog in the sky where the manuscript entries on the backs of the cards, notes made by librarians and scholars over the years, are housed in a secret tower of lost information, because as we know it was only the fronts of those cards that were copied.
Here is what the "flare" is about, a lonely hand-written catalog card for a surplus(ed)/duplicate pamphlet from the Library of Congress. The work is by Richard S. McCulloch, and called Memorial to the Congress of the United States Requesting an Investigation and Legislation in Relation to the New Method for Refining Gold (printed by John T. Robinson in Princeton, N.J., in 1851).
There is another slip of old paper in the pamphlet with a tiny annotation, "McCulloch/not in L.C." It was, for 100+ years, but not any more.
I purchased this along with dozens of thousands of other pamphlets (in a collection called, yes, The Pamphlet Collection) years ago when the library determined that the material was not needed. I was very happy to need them, and I'm still going through the process of finding other needy recruits for them.
But it is that card that makes me like a border person of some sort, of having used the old-time systems and then benefited greatly from the new and replacement systems. For example doing searches in what is a very useful tool for me--the WorldCat database--for finding holdings of libraries for a particular title is now an instantaneous thing, whereas in the not-so-misty past (in terms of human years) this search would have involved going through several iterations of the multi-hundred-volume National Union Catalog. The time I've saved looking up bibliographic references and using online reference tools probably has given me several lifetimes of look-up compared to the 1979 me.
Still and all, I think I'd like to see the card catalog.
Notes on the McCulloch book: