ASSOCIATES (2008, November, v. 15, no. 2)


I Remember When …

I used to type up all the card catalog cards on a manual typewriter. We used to check out books by hand and type up the letter for books that were late to be returned. Also, one day there was an ice storm and we worked by Coleman lanterns. We found people on the roof of the building that got stuck out there all weekend. I used a card punch machine to do the serials list.

There are other things but they are not the nice things.

Connie Kissee
Hale Library

The library was Belmont neighborhood library here in Portland, and it was story time. I took one of my daughters when she was little. It was about 1980. We would lean against bookshelves, sing, and listen to stories and I remember looking at the books on the shelves with so many kinds of type and color, not realizing that I would one day work at the library. My daughter was very shy then. We sang the library songs again on the way home since she was too afraid to sing them during story time. She loved story time. She wouldn’t reach into the box with the children’s nametags but she loved her nametag that said, Amber, in different colored letters and a lower bend mark where she bent it during the stories.

Joanne Tracy,
Library Clerk at CEN

I remember when…People came to the library to peruse, relax, inspire, sink into the cerebral, fly from the gutter to the stars … you get the idea … What I don’t remember is people coming to the library to play WAR games!!


I am the Cataloging Management Specialist at the library at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. I’ve been working in the library here since 1971, starting out in serials, interlibrary loan, and circulation and then moving to cataloging. I remember when I used my first electric typewriter when I started work here in June 1971! For many years I typed catalog cards using a CPT (cassette power typewriter), which used one cassette tape to record the body of the card and another to record the tracings and if you programmed the thing right, it would automatically switch between the two tapes to give you the set of cards.

Then there was all the filing and the gallons of white-out and/or electric erasers we used to change subject headings. Then along came computers with WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 to make our lives easier and the OCLC early computers that took forever. The next thing was our automated system (III) in the early 90’s with the staff getting dumb terminals and all the cleanup work that resulted from our not-so-perfect retro conversion. All that is behind us, and we’re looking forward to the move into our new building next summer (the first time this campus has had a completely new library building – the building we’re in now was converted from a dorm in the late 70’s). There have been some challenges and bumps along the way, but basically, it has been good. Thanks for the reminder to take a trip down memory lane!

Karen Mand

I remember when we first automated and the librarian told me to keep the shelf list and card catalogue because she didn’t trust it. We kept it many years. :)

Shirley Prestin

I could give you lots of them – I’ve been here for 32 years!

Let’s see…

I remember when our “periodicals list” was on rolodex cards, and when we had a volume bound, or any other changes were made, I made the corrections with white-out and a typewriter.

I remember when correcting a card from the catalog meant getting out the electric eraser.

I remember when you had to fill out a card for each item you wanted to check out – writing the call number, author, title, your name, and ID number on each card. Then I had to try to read your writing when the item was overdue and I had to send you an overdue notice!

I remember when showing a video meant you had to move in a television monitor and hope you could hook up the player to it correctly.

I remember when many of the “films” used in physical education classes were film loops.

I was entrusted with the electric eraser! :) I also got to file catalog cards “above the rod”, and then the cataloger would double check and lock them in. After a couple of years, I got to be the checker!

And the white-out was only for the Rolodex cards – never for the catalog cards.

“Checking in periodicals on a Kardex” Oh, yeah, how could I have forgotten about that? Ten of them on a spinning bookstand on my desk … entering the basic info into a computer so that once a quarter I could print 7 copies of the periodicals list (we’d moved up from the rolodex by then) which were out of date before they came back from being hole punched at the print shop, and THEN entering all the information in III when we got that.

(I could go on … but will stop for now)

Linda Divan
Library Systems Co-ordinator
Centennial Library
Cedarville University

I have been here 27 years. I remember the library staff gathering for an hour every week to file catalog cards. We put them “above the rod” and the cataloger would later check them and “drop them”.

We also used string to tie cards together when we had multiples for a title. Our retired library director referred to this as “tying one on”.

Linda Hostetler

In 1961, I began working in my high school library as typist. Typing every card in the catalog on manual typewriter.

In 1963, I worked at typist for our college cataloger. Typing every card in catalog especially LPs, which sometimes have as many as 100 cards in a set, but at least the typewriter was electric. Yes, no white-out, only an electric eraser. I also cut the stencil for dup-exchange list, ran them, and prepared them for mailing.

Putting the call number on the spine was done with a pen staff and white ink. Writing papers meant going through many indexes and writing notes on note cards. Oh yes – Chemistry and Biology Indexes.

I returned to the Library in 1970s and thought how wonderful liquid paper, type shelf list card and send for duplication. Even check out had modernized to punch cards. The dup-exchange list was typed and then a stencil was made by burning and later photocopying. Still had the shelf list made of cards. We met with resistance when we chose to replace the card catalog with electronic catalog. Then several years later the shelf list catalog with electronic shelf list.

I did Interlibrary Loans and had to wait 5 minutes for transmission. Took work with me to do while waiting for computer to respond.

I had the only computer in the Administration Office and it was dual floppy drive. Had to put a disk in to boot-up and then saved to diskette. No hard drive.

I just have one thing to say – Isn’t technically wonderful?

I spent four years in the Library in the sixties and then returned in the seventies to remain until today. I thought I might retire, but chose not to because I love the every changing world of the Library.

Linda S. Land
Administrative Services Coordinator
Dick Smith Library
Tarleton State University

Boy I tend to think I haven’t been working in libraries for long (about 15 years) but a lot has changed. When I took my first library job, we used an OCLC multi drop line and an old green and black text only dummy terminal. We used passport software and derived searching. The system took ten minutes to log into OCLC and we had to type in everything via a command line. Ill requests were printed out on dot matrix printers that would take so long to print and be so noisy. We could only run them when patrons weren’t in the reading room.

When I train new staff, I say you have it so easy!

We had tan colored white out that we had to use with the cards in the catalog! I remember on my first day of work as a stacks manager I got an apron, a pencil, a withdrawn stamp, and a bottle of tan correction fluid!

Andrea Tomlinson, MLIS
Technical Services Manager
Othmer Library of Chemical History

I started working in this library in 1987. I have always been in cataloging.

I remember our local system computers were “dumb” terminals daisy chained together and when one went down the rest of the chain after it went down. I remember how slow OCLC response time was (I got in trouble for drumming my fingernails on the table top waiting for response). We didn’t have computers at our desks, they were grouped together on tables, and you had scheduled time to use them. I remember our associate Dean would buy cards for the PC’s that we needed and just hand them to myself and another member of the department and we would just try setting it various ways until the PC worked the way we needed it to. We couldn’t find any documentation telling us how to set pins and jumpers. We didn’t even know what the different settings were really supposed to do!!!

Our label printer was so loud it was inside a sound box to muffle the noise and if a label was stuck, it was an all day job to dismantle it, clean it, and put it back together.

But…if we would not have stopped filing cards I don’t think I would have stayed. I hated filing cards!!!!! It was many years later that we finally threw away all the dead cards, but to this day I still have one person who wishes we still had the card catalog!!!

I framed the last card from the card catalog and gave it to our Associate Dean when he retired. One of the last things he wanted done was to “dump” the card catalog. If I remember correctly, it took us 10 years because faculty didn’t want us losing the card catalog in case the system went down. We finally quietly dumped it.

I was trying to do my civic duty back then and worked with people trying to get off welfare. I had a person dumping the drawers and told her how happy we were to be finally able to do this, and that we would have a party when it was done. She left at lunch and never came back. She told Human Resources I was giving her demeaning work to do!!!! I ended up doing a lot of the dumping; I was not asking her to do anything I would not do myself!

Connie Basquez
Wichita State University Libraries

My first library job was general assistant to the librarian in a professional mental health library. I typed all the cards, filed them all, put the call numbers on the books with an electric pen similar to a wood burning pen, and then shelved the books. Also checked in the periodicals on a Kardex system, shelved them, and did the packing up for binding. It makes me tired just listing all this. But that was in 1969 and I was a lot younger. Now I am the head of a Catalog Department in an academic library–oh how far we’ve come.

Susan Bell, Manager, Catalog Department
Governors State University
University Park, IL

Oh that colored correction fluid…I’d forgotten all about it…we had buff, pink, yellow and green to match all our different cards for various functions. We needed it to use with our old manual typewriters (We had the strongest fingers back then) that we had on these rolling carts that would travel up and down the Kardex to check in serials and do claiming.

Linda Kay Snook

I remember when we first had public-access computers available and whoever was on Reference duty was supposed to keep an eye on the people using them. One afternoon I got a call from the lady on duty at the Reference Desk, “One of the public computers has a message displayed that says an illegal operation occurred. Should I call Campus Security?”

I remember when we had to manually shift the contents of the entire card catalog to accommodate the AACR2 changes in corporate name forms, particularly the state university systems. “California. University” became “University of California (System)” and “University of California, Berkeley.” “California. University. University at Los Angeles” became “University of California, Los Angeles.” “New York (N.Y.). University” became “New York University” ; “New York (State). University” became “University of the State of New York.”

Tina Gunther
Biola University Library

When I worked in Maryland in the 1980’s, I remember that before sending something to the regional library for interlibrary loan, when had to check the state holdings – on microfiche. The regional library then had to check their holdings (there was no way for us to check the holdings back then) before sending the request off to the state library.

We also had a card catalog and a card system for patrons. I remember dropping one of the drawers of patron cards on the floor (and my foot) one time. Unfortunately, I had removed the metal bar running through the cards as I was about to drop new cards in the drawer, so the cards went flying. It looked like a scene out of Ghostbusters. Took me hours to put the cards back in order.

When I started here in 1994, there wasn’t even a current card catalog.

And I shudder to think how much more difficult Braille transcription was before computers. I still don’t remember all of the contractions and short form words (189) and I do Braille transcription all the time…but the Braille translation program remembers for me!

Elizabeth Hart
Library Technical Assistant
California School for the Blind
Fremont, CA

When I was first hired in 1966 right out of high school as a full-time page at the Greeley Public Library, every Saturday morning I read shelves for a year and a half — the mysteries and the 100-300’s.

I didn’t read mysteries and still don’t but I do know the names of the older mystery writers. To this day, the 100-300’s are my least favorite sections of the library.

I remember that as the full-time page how hectic it was in the summers.

I would be upstairs with the counter and carts full of books and I’d get a call to go downstairs to shelve all of the children’s books. What a madhouse! Doing that much shelving and reading shelves really helped me to get to know the authors and books. I’ve always maintained that I received a college education long before I ever went back to school for a B.A. Twenty years later I helped discard thousands of books, some of the original books purchased for the library in the 1890s. Oh, that was not only hard work physically but also very emotional to feel like you were giving away part of the library’s history. A few years later, I did a history of the library and became quite familiar with the names of some of the earlier librarians. The most interesting thing I discovered was that several of the early graduates from the Normal School (now the University of Northern Colorado) later became librarians at the Greeley Public Library. What’s even more interesting was discovering that one or two of the librarians lived in the house where I Iived as a child and where my mother now lives.

I remember when we did our overdues by telephone. We only sent overdue notices if we could not get someone by telephone.

I remember the old photocopiers that used liquid toner. What a mess!!

I remember when only serious researchers were allowed to use Interlibrary Loan. And if another library wanted to borrow our books, the Head Librarian had to give her permission before we could send it out.

Shirley Soenksen
Library Technician II
University of Northern Colorado Libraries
Greeley, CO

I used Baker & Taylors hand held device to order books over the phone.

We hand typed check-out cards.

I hand wrote check out cards and pockets.

We changed security systems and EVERYTHING had to be tattle taped.

We moved into our new building and took that opportunity to move the card catalog to the 1st level in the back. We left it there about 5 years and didn’t update it.

I recall the day we dumped it. It was gone several years before anybody missed it.

I recall ironing on labels.

Daisy chained cd drives.

Ordering our tapes from OCLC, which held our catalog records.

Helping with ULOTEU, which was periodical holdings for several libraries in the area of our state. I put the local data records on OCLC for us and 13 other institutions. I actually remember what the acronym stands for.

Checking in periodicals on a Kardex, Apple computer, now III.

I know about the dry hands and the hangnails. OUCH!!

I think my best memory is when we moved into a new building, in the basement and we got windows!

Joan Scott / Cataloging
Shawnee State University
Portsmouth, OH

I remember my first full time job, as Night Supervisor of Serials Public Service (1979).

One of my duties was to instruct Patrons in the use of the Serials list…on Microfiche! This was updated only a couple of times a year, so it was always out of date. But this was technologically more advanced than paper cards in the Public Card Catalog.

One of my other duties was to check serials into the Kardex, twice a week.

Even though we migrated to separate online systems, and then to an integrated system, we kept those Kardex cards (in boxes) until last year!

Julia D. Ree
UC Riverside
Cataloging and Metadata Services Department

I remember

The IBM due date cards

Stamping Due Dates – we had 4 different dates depending on the collection and stamped all day and in different colors!

Reserve requests were filled out on postcards and the postcards were kept in a carousel on the circulation desk

Gail Seidenfrau
Circulation Supervisor/Stacks Management
New City Library

What memories. I’m glad these days are gone!

Shirlene B. Moore