Capturing memories

11 10 2015

A recent post on Facebook linked to an article on the printing of the last library catalogue cards by the biggest printer of cat cards back in the day. Article (with video): http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2015/10/02/the-last-card.html

Oh wow! That brought back some memories, which I figured I should document before my memory of that time faded…

I started working in school libraries in Western Australia in the 1970s — mostly we did our own cataloguing and catalogue cards, although there was a minimal centralised service from our state’s Education Dept. That central cataloguing department increased over the years to become the main provider of cat cards to all schools in our state by the mid-80s (perhaps earlier). However, I always made sure we had a copy of Dewey in the library workroom for things the centralised service didn’t provide (like full cataloguing of articles within yearbooks), and a copy of Sears subject headings.

By the late 80s (1988?), I was part of an Australia-wide project to centralise ALL school library catalogue data. By the very late 80s the first library automation systems were coming in to schools, and schools started to have the choice of printed cards (minimum of two for any book/multimedia [author, title]; sometimes up to nine! [author, title, one for each subject heading ascribed to the resource]) or digital catalogue records from the centralised service.

The high school library where I was Head of Department was a pioneer in our state, becoming one of the first libraries to automate their catalogue in/around 1989 — I think our system cost somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000 all up, with the computers, backup tapes, barcode readers, barcodes for 25,000+ resources, dot matrix printer, and other costs (like a motorised sit/stand desk for the library clerks — $1600 in 1989!). We kept our catalogue cards and drawers for a couple of years (some kids really liked the familiarity of them), getting rid of them before I left that school in at the end of 1991. When I asked the Ed Dept furniture people about what to do with the catalogue drawers, I was told they didn’t want them back and I could dispose of them however I wanted. I still have a 3-layer bank of 6 drawers — my DH used it to store audio cassettes for many years, and I now use it to hold large 5000 m spools of thread.

All this was a precursor to my next career, though I had no idea at the time what it would segue into. Around May 1992, I started working for the library automation company (my first job outside education and the first with a software company), which lasted until July 1998 when the company imploded (another tale for another time…).

During that time, I pushed for our company to get a website, and, as no-one else was interested in doing it, I taught myself HTML and wrote and edited our company’s 600+ HTML pages in Notepad. For those who remember, these were the days of <font> tags and NO CSS!! Why 600+ pages? Our company’s site became a repository of vetted websites in all sorts of subjects for school kids, and was heavily used by teacher-librarians around the world as a reliable resource. These were the days before Google — I used to check websites for their suitability using Alta Vista and DogPile, and used Netscape as my browser. But that’s a story for another time.

Ah, memories…


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