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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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A Chicago Library Needs Help Transcribing 17th-Century Spellbooks
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Interested in dabbling in 17th-century witchcraft in your spare time? The Newberry Library in Chicago could use your help. As Quartz reports, the independent research library is calling on citizens to translate and transcribe three books dealing with spells and witches that date back to the 1600s.

The manuscripts—The Book of Magical Charms, The Commonplace Book, and Cases of Conscience Concerning Witchcraft—have been scanned and uploaded to the library's open transcription portal. Consisting of archaically spelled English and Latin text handwritten on yellowed, water-stained pages, the content is difficult for most modern-day readers to make sense of. But those who can decipher it will be treated to such eye-opening passages as a remedy for nosebleeds, a reflection on the ethics of witch hanging, and one medicinal use for a dead man's tooth.

Pages from the texts are available to view online with text boxes below for readers to contribute their transcriptions and translations. Several portions have already been decoded, like a section on activating a magic seal ("write in virgin parchment the blood of a lamb") and tips for conjuring ("work should be with a crescent moon"). Once transcriptions have been written and reviewed by the library, they will be added to the institution’s digital collection. There anyone will be able to browse through centuries-old advice on dealing with menstrual pain and contacting the dead, even if they can't understand centuries-old English.

[h/t Quartz]

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This Chinese Library's Interior Is Designed to Look Like an Infinite Tunnel of Books
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The Chinese city of Yangzhou is known for its graceful arched bridges and proximity to the Yangtze River and the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. Architects kept these unique local features in mind while designing Zhongshuge Yangzhou, a new bookstore and library that was completed in 2016.

Designed by Shanghai studio XL-Muse Architects, the building has black, mirrored floors and arched ceilings that symbolize Yangzhou’s famous waterways and overpasses. The floor reflects the store’s curving shelves to create the illusion of a never-ending tunnel of books—a true bibliophile’s dream.

Learn more about Yangzhou’s unique library/bookstore below, courtesy of Great Big Story.

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