Monday, September 24, 2007

Ode to the Library Card Catalog

card catalog from Yale University library

Remember those card catalogs you used to see in libraries, before they got replaced by computer databases? (The one above was in Yale University's Sterling Memorial Library; thanks to Wikipedia for the image.) They can still make wonderful storage for all sorts of things.

Uses for a Card Catalog

1. As I noted on Friday, some people use them to store LEGO bricks.

card catalog with colorful labels

2. Tricia Royal of Bits & Bobbins uses hers for art and sewing supplies. Isn't that gorgeous? [via Apartment Therapy]

3. The folks at Publib, a discussion group for public librarians, are full of suggestions.

Ar least two people noted that wine bottles fit perfectly into the drawers.

Helen Rigdon says, "The drawers are perfect size for storing a quart size of liquor (I think that’s the 150 ml size now???) But I don’t have EVERY drawer filled that way. I store candles, napkins, flashlights and other odds and ends in the drawers."

Alison Baker writes, "I have one in my kitchen - and it is filled. The drawers are the perfect width for standard cans, spice jars, certain packaged food too. The pull out shelf works great for checking through the recipe box or cookbooks. The bottom row - I have a tall one - is reserved for tools."

Nann Blaine Hilyard says, "I use a 30-drawer Library Bureau unit in my quilting studio to hold thread and notions."

And Mary Maw, who notes the her card catalog is not made of beautiful woods, writes, "My husband stores files, plumbing parts, electrical parts, nails, etc. in the drawers."

Where to Find a Card Catalog

card catalog, restored and looking stunning

1. eBay or craiglist sometimes have card catalogs for sale. The one shown above - beautifully restored - is currently listed on the San Francisco Bay Area craigslist.

2. Libraries getting rid of their card catalogs will often auction them off - but since many have already disposed of theirs, I imagine there's less chance of getting one this way then there was in prior years.

3. A card catalog just sold on GovDeals, and another one is available. Just browse the category Library Equipment.

4. Michelle Caulk found hers at an estate sale.

5. You can still buy new card catalogs from and Update on May 14, 2010: I no longer see them at -but Demco still sells some.

More Reading (with great pictures)

See what woodworker George Brooks-Hutton (nicknamed Huttonio Brooks) has done with cabinets he got from the University of California at Berkeley.


Anonymous said...

I love old card catalogs! I've posted about the one on Bits & Bobbins before. I think it's beautiful. I have the perfect spot in my office for one. I could probably even share it with my kids.

Jeri Dansky said...

Tanna, I love them too - but unlike you, I really don't have any place for one. And I don't really need the type of storage they provide.

But if I did have the space and the need, I'd sure be tempted by the one I pictured that's for sale in my neck of the woods.

Antony N. Lord said...

I've been looking for a large library card catalog drawer set for ages here in Australia for all my odd bits and pieces! Maybe someone out there has a local source?

Jeri Dansky said...

Antony, I've sent your plea off to an organizer I know in Australia - not in Perth, though. Maybe she'll know of a resource for you.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I've seen library card drawers in second hand stores and auction rooms in Australia (Melbourne/Sydney) - I reckon it's a matter of digging around or asking around your local second hand dealers in WA. Might also be worth asking country libraries on your next trip out of town!

Lissanne said...

Hi there, I've seen library card drawers in second hand stores and auction rooms in Australia (Melbourne/Sydney) - I reckon it's a matter of digging around or asking around your local second hand dealers in WA. Might also be worth asking country libraries on your next trip out of town!

Anonymous said...

Perfect for neckties. The new J.Press catalog shows them being used for socks. One of these would be GREAT for ties (roll them up, put them in), socks, belts, wow I am trying to find one.

Jeri Dansky said...

Anonymous, thank you for pointing out even more uses for these lovely pieces.

When I did some googling I found that J. Crew is't the only one who thought they'd be good for socks - as well as baseball cards, seed packets, etc. So many possible uses!

Anonymous said...

casette tapes fit nicely

Jeri Dansky said...

Right you are, anonymous! For those who are keeping their old cassette tapes, this would be a beautiful way to store them.

Anonymous said...

I love card catalogs and I am desperately seeking one! I think they are great ways of organizing everything while adding a dramatic touch to one's apartment

Jeri Dansky said...

Good luck on your search, Anonymous!

Anonymous said...

Are people still looking for these? I have been asked to see what the current rates are for these, used in excellent condition. If interested, I will pass this blog on to the business manager.

Jeri Dansky said...

Anonymous, this is not a site for buying or selling. I simply point my readers to resources that might be useful to them.

Hazel Thornton said...

This post makes me want a library card catalog!

Jeri Dansky said...

Aren't they wonderful, Hazel? I have no place for one (and no need for one) - but if I did ...

terrance_halsey said...

We have four card catalogs free to a good home. Different sizes. Valerie Merrick Memorial Library
Fort Totten, ND 58335
701 766 1353