January 19, 2007
By Patrick Hayes, University Archives
For much of the 20th century, the humble file card was the cornerstone of academic life. It was the main access point for finding and retrieving books. A single item was referenced and cross-reference through file cards, and card catalogues were a dominant feature of any library, large and small.
File cards were also invaluable research tools. Most academics, from graduate school onward, lived within easy reach of a file card. The most common method used was to write your notes on the cards and then arrange them in the appropriate order before pen was put to paper. The typical academic would use and reuse the note cards throughout their career, and some amassed card collections measured in meters.
Though the research card lasted well into the computer era, the card catalogue was removed from the University Library in 1988. The above photo was taken in 1958 and shows Dean Halliwell (right), Assistant Librarian, using the catalogue in the Murray Building in 1958.
U of S Archives photo, A-649.