10 Fun Uses for Old Card Catalogs

Image credit: 
Sonja Flemming/CBS © CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

The library catalog has gone digital, but that doesn’t mean all the old oaken card catalog cabinets have been flung on the ash heap of history. Fans of the TV series The Big Bang Theory have blogged that they covet Sheldon’s geek chic catalog (above). Here are some of the novel ways creative people (including many librarians) have renewed card catalogs.

1. Sewing supplies smartly sorted

Tricia Royal from Chicago, Ill., who blogs about textile arts at www.bitsandbobbins.com, set up this system.

2. Wine warehouse where we would never suspect

The Los Angeles Public Library removed most of the catalog cabinets from the Central Library rotunda, leaving the drawers that were built into the walls and replacing the labels with plaques honoring donors. The Doheny Library at the University of Southern California went a step further. The catalog drawers now have locks so donors can leave gifts for their families. Wine bottles fit neatly, it seems.

Shannon Klug of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities made the same discovery; that's her catalog above.

For some reason, she wanted us to know that the Dewey number for wine is 641.22.

3. Postcards perched at peculiar angles

Fierce Bunny provided this view.

 

4. Secret stash of spare shoes

Someone with the Twitter handle @amycsc in library Special Collections at the College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Va., says, “I used some of the drawers in that card catalog to hold my emergency back-up shoes at the office.”

5.  Dragons dreaming in a drawer

Librarian Jill E. Erickson of Falmouth, Mass., notes that the Dewey number should be 635 for gardening.

6. Crimson casters carry a coffee table

Molly Dolan of Morgantown, W. Va., crafted this clever contraption.

7. A sorting system for salty snacks

Liz Fabry of Durham, N.C., captured this view of the craft brewery Fullsteam.

8. Cameras carefully catalogued

Andrea Wiggins, a post-doctoral fellow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., notes, “Someone carved ‘Led Zeppelin’ into one of the pull-out shelves, but there's no match for that vintage institutional yellow wood stain for refinishing, so it just adds more character.”

9. Drawers drafted to document Darwin’s deeds

Photo courtesy the Minneapolis College of Art and Design Library

In Spring 2012, Jen Caruso’s students at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design used an old card catalog to create a “cabinet of curiosities” relating to Charles Darwin's voyage on HMS Beagle. The inspiration was the "Crystal Palace" exhibition of 1851 in London.  (The citrus fruit refers to its use in preventing scurvy during long sea voyages, which bananas do not.)

10. Cat-alog

Photo courtesy of Bart Everson

Well, that's adorable.

Card catalog cabinets have also been used as convenient sort-and-store devices for scarves, jewelry, flatware, tools and hardware, art supplies — and just about anything else that fits within a space 3 ¼” x 5 ¼” x 15".

So what’s in Sheldon’s catalog on The Big Bang Theory? Bill Prady, the show’s co-creator and executive producer, told us the contents have never been revealed, but according to a 2009 article, some drawers are labeled “Luke,” “Vader” and “Solo.”

June 27, 2013 - 11:00am
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