I imagine there are many people now a days that have never spent any time going through a major library’s card catalog. Perhaps that’s a good thing. I wiled away hours and whole days of my life in the UCSB library, researching bibliographies and such stuff back in the 60s when others were out playing poker, surfing, burning banks, and indulging other creative recreations.
Nevertheless, I grew to enjoy finding odds and ends in those immense card catalogs, finding things I hadn’t a clue existed anywhere in God’s creation. Things that made one stop and ponder, such as “The Barbed Wire Collector’s Journal”, complete with photos, descriptions, history, and discussion of eighteen-inch strands of barbed (or bobbed) wire. I began to realise that for every topic I could think of, and some that I couldn’t, there existed a depth of knowledge that a card catalog could reveal to the unwary browser.
One of this country’s greatest treasures is the Library Of Congress, based -of course!- in Washington DC. I have friends back east that regularly take advantage of its facilities. I have managed one vist about 16 years ago and was sorry. Sorry because I was overwhelmed by all that great material – especially in its Folklore Dept. – which was unavailable to me on a regular basis, based as I am on the Left Coast. Now, computers and digital databases have replaced card catalogs and the ‘net has made it possible for all Americans to share some of the wonderful resources of what is now called the American Folklife Center. In the just-arrived Summer 2007 issue of the AFC News (as we know, the people in Washington work, live, and move in glacial terms) comes an article that announces the old card catalog once in use there has been digitized and made available on-line! What a great find and resource for thos eof us who still listen to the amazing collection of field recordings stored in the archives there.
CLICK HERE to enter the card catalog, and have fun browsing.