The Library Card System

Before computer databases were available to keep the catalog records of library holdings, a library card system was used.  Public catalogs filled with these card were available in the library for browsing.  The cards for books and other material were organized and accessible by title, author and subject in separate catalogs.  Some of these old card catalogs are still available for use on the first floor of Crerar.
In addition print indexes in the form of books, usually issued yearly, were used access to articles in journals by article title, author and subject.   
Book borrowing cards were also used to keep track of borrowed materials before the advent of computer systems. When a book was checked out the borrowers name was noted and the card was removed and held by the library.  The cards were held to keep track of what books have been taken out and by whom. The Library no longer uses these cards but their pocket holders are still visible in the back of some of the older books in Crerar.


Library card catalog drawer with pull

Photo by Jenny Hart

These pulls kept the cards in place but could be removed to access individual cards.

Library card box

Photo by Jenny Hart

Library card box used to hold cards temporarily before they were filed in catalogs.

Crerar Print Card Room

From the University of Chicago Photographic Archive (URL: http://photoarchive.lib.uchicago.edu/), Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago. Identifier: apf2-02004.

Card catalogs and other card files in the Printed Card Room at The Crerar Library on Randolph Street. 

Card filing in the Library

From the University of Chicago Photographic Archive (URL: http://photoarchive.lib.uchicago.edu/), Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago. Identifier: apf2-06261.

Some 300,000 records of books being processed for a working file that stretches almost the width of the technical processing department of the Library. It was eliminated after the new computerized system was installed.