27 years after the great card catalog of the Columbia Libraries stopped being updated, it is finally being removed altogether.
The card catalog was a powerful reference resource in itself; its index cards bore carefully researched information to help identify places and subjects, authors and their dates, and innumerable bibliographic details that were sometimes not apparent even when one had the book in one's hands.
The message that was received by Columbia faculty this morning, and which is apparently not yet on line, reads:
This fall you will begin to see changes in Butler Library, Room 310 as the Libraries begin the process to remove the card catalog. The Subject catalog in the north end of the room, overlooking College Walk. will be removed in 2013, followed by sections of the Name/Title catalog in 2014. We will be removing the catalog furniture from the center of the room and moving much of the Name/Title catalog to the cabinets on the exterior walls at the south end of the room. Retaining these catalog cards will ensure that no bibliographic information important to scholarship will be lost in this process.
The card catalog has not been updated since 1985, when the libraries introduced the online catalog, CLIO. As time has passed, the information in the card catalog has become increasingly inaccurate. Major historical changes, such as the break-up of the Soviet bloc in 1991 are not reflected. Additionally, the removal of the card catalog provides the library with an opportunity to continue to improve, update, and in some cases, add records to CLIO that were not included in 1985 or in subsequent retrospective conversion projects. These improvements to CLIO will be noticeable as early as this fall as we begin to update the holdings information for journals and add missing microfilm sets.
The removal of the card catalogs also enables the Libraries to continue the transformation of Butler Library that began with the recently completed renovation. Using the historical beauty of the space as backdrop, Room 310 will be re-purposed to better serve the emerging research needs of our students and faculty. Over time, Room 310 will be transformed into a Digital Humanities Center (DHC) where scholars will be able to approach their research in new ways. Knowledgeable subject specialist librarians and technologists will help humanities scholars integrate deep research collections across multiple formats with digital tools and new research methodologies – all within a space honoring both the rich history of humanities scholarship at Columbia and the architectural uniqueness of Butler Library.
The removal of the card catalog will bring the Columbia University Libraries in line with peer institutions that removed their card catalogs in the last decade; New York University removed their catalog in 2001, Harvard University in 2003, and Yale University in 2006.