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Watch How Libraries Were Organized in 1951 (Card Catalogs!)

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Libraries have traditionally faced a serious organizational challenge: How can patrons find the stuff in all the books?

Prior to the advent of computer-based search engines, humans did the searching using the magic of indexing. In most libraries, this meant a card catalog full of little index cards containing information about books and periodicals. If you knew to look for a subject, an author, a title, or (sometimes) a date of publication, you'd have a starting point to start exploring the interlinked cards. From there, you'd hit the "stacks" (the bookshelves) and locate relevant books.

In the United States, the Dewey Decimal System has been the primary method of organizing knowledge within collections like libraries (though the Library of Congress has a good one too). Knowing just a dash of Dewey's system helped librarians (and library patrons) locate information even without the card catalog, since topics group together physically within the collection.

The ten-minute filmstrip below was made 65 years ago, attempting to explain to students how libraries worked. (And, I should note, to lightly shame kids who weren't card catalog whizzes. Yikes.) It's instructive to look at this today and understand how profoundly different the task of finding information is for today's students versus pretty much everyone before them. And hey, while we're at it, let's hear it for libraries! Enjoy:

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From Hogwarts to Game of Thrones: The Floor Plans of Famous Fictional Libraries
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Early readers of the Harry Potter books were enchanted all over again when they saw the Hogwarts library up on the big screen. Those scenes were actually filmed inside Duke Humfrey's Library, the oldest reading room at the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library, but some magical touches were mixed in to make it suitable for the wizarding world.

In celebration of the beauty of libraries, furniture designer Neville Johnson has created artistic floor plans of famous movie and TV libraries, including the Hogwarts library, the Citadel from Game of Thrones, and several others.

The company’s team of designers watched and rewatched scenes from the movies and series they chose to feature in order to get a feel for the library layout and pick out key design features in the background. They also researched the filming locations of some of these fictional libraries (like the Bodleian) as well as the libraries that inspired their big-screen counterparts (like the library in the live action version of Beauty and the Beast, inspired by the Baroque architecture of the Joanina Library in Coimbra, Portugal).

Scroll down to see these floor plans and more.

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Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Qatar National Library's Panorama-Style Bookshelves Offer Guests Stunning Views
Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The newly opened Qatar National Library in the capital city of Doha contains more than 1 million books, some of which date back to the 15th century. Co.Design reports that the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) designed the building so that the texts under its roof are the star attraction.

When guests walk into the library, they're given an eyeful of its collections. The shelves are arranged stadium-style, making it easy to appreciate the sheer number of volumes in the institution's inventory from any spot in the room. Not only is the design photogenic, it's also practical: The shelves, which were built from the same white marble as the floors, are integrated into the building's infrastructure, providing artificial lighting, ventilation, and a book-return system to visitors. The multi-leveled arrangement also gives guests more space to read, browse, and socialize.

"With Qatar National Library, we wanted to express the vitality of the book by creating a design that brings study, research, collaboration, and interaction within the collection itself," OMA writes on its website. "The library is conceived as a single room which houses both people and books."

While most books are on full display, OMA chose a different route for the institution's Heritage Library, which contains many rare, centuries-old texts on Arab-Islamic history. This collection is housed in a sunken space 20 feet below ground level, with beige stone features that stand out from the white marble used elsewhere. Guests need to use a separate entrance to access it, but they can look down at the collection from the ground floor above.

If Qatar is too far of a trip, there are plenty of libraries in the U.S. that are worth a visit. Check out these panoramas of the most stunning examples.

Qatar library.

Qatar library.

Qatar library.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images: Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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