This is a Card Catalog

North Carolina Room card catalogue used through 1994.

A college student was interning with the North Carolina Room and on her first day we were showing her around. We mentioned that, for history purposes, we’d kept our N.C. card catalog. We noticed she was looking around the room as if lost. She didn’t know what to look for because she didn’t know what she was looking for.

With this kind of “card” catalog you could look up a book by title, author or subject. And if you weren’t so great at spelling, you could fudge–unlike an online catalog–by flipping through cards for possible alternative spellings.



How To instructions placed in every drawer.

In March of 1994 the Buncombe County Library system turned to an automated online catalog. The project started in 1988 with a system-wide inventory of books and materials. The NC State library granted the library $100,000 for the project in 1992. Staff attached barcodes to over 270,000 books and re-registered the library’s 70,000 patrons.

March 1994, the first patrons to check out books on the automated system.

“Here Mom, I’ll show you.”









“Now what did you do to bring that up?”


And this is no longer needed:



Twenty-three years ago does not seem like that long ago. Right? That’s when I started working full time in the North Carolina Room. This was our index to our photograph, postcard and special collections.


And this is what an index card for a photograph looked like.


The library hired an archivist/consultant who finished his report on the conservation and preservation of Special Collections in 1990. Upon this recommendation, an archival database system was purchased, and a part time clerical staff position was created to assist with data entry. Digitization of the North Carolina Special Collections began. The information on each of the index cards, such as the one above, was typed into a record with a computer generated ID number. Mind you, the information was digitized but we did not start any scanning of images until around 2001. Prior to scanning in-house, if a patron wanted a copy of one of our images, we sent it to local photographer Tim Barnwell and the patron would pay for the negative to be made and their copy and the negative would be returned to us. We first started scanning images for patron requests and then gradually started scanning our collection. Fifteen years later, 2016, we have over 13,000 photographs and over 4,000 post cards scanned and available to view on our special collections online database. We have also been working at scanning various manuscript collections, especially photograph albums. Scanning at high resolution dpi is an amazing preservation tool, and making our images available is part of the North Carolina Collection’s mission. But the next time you expect something to be found scanned online, you must know, it is not an easy process. My, how time flies.

Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s