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How to use the Card Catalogue.


The audience which listened last evening to Mr. W. C. Lane's talk on the uses of our library catalogue, went away convinced of the complexity of our system of catalogueing books, but nevertheless with a store of useful knowledge. Of the two kinds of catalogues, the ordinary book catalogue is the easier to conduct, but cannot, of course, be kept up to date. Our library published its last catalogue in 1830, when the number of books was about 40,000; in 1833 a supplement was issued, and in the same year a card catalogue was begun; but it was not until 1860, when there were 90,000 volumes in the library, that the present card catalogue was started. Therefore, if a book was published before 1830, it is safest to consult the published catalogue of that year.

The present system of catalogueing books is a double system, the books being arranged under author and subject. All books are to be found under author. The authors are arranged alphabetically, as are also their works. No trouble would here arise if all works had authors, but many are published anonymously-such are arranged under the first title-and many have pseudonymous authors. This latter class is to found under the real name of the author, with a reference under his pseudonyme. Works published by Government, are arranged under the country. with a sub-head, department; Society documents are entered under the name of the place which enters into the title of the society, but when the place is not known, they are entered under the first word of the title. In order to find works of Greek or Latin authors, one must look in the Subject catalogue, under sub-heads, under Greek and Latin. If a book is made up of a collection of essays, reference will be found to it under the several authors. Many books are now published in series, such as the International Scientific Series; for this purpose special cards, called outline cards, are furnished, containing the list of works. No books are entered under their editors, because such a plan would increase greatly the size of the catalogue.

Under the Subject catalogue there are about 450 main headings, such as music, law, agriculture, etc. Under any one of these headings, for instance law, will first be found general works on the subject, arranged, under sub-heads, by authors alphabetically. Then would come groups, such as dictionaries, periodicals, society reports, etc., containing articles on both special and general subjects. Next come special works, arranged either as a branch-if there is need of further sub-division, in which case the name of the particular branch is placed on the same line as the main heading-or simply as a section, when there is no sub-division required. The following will illustrate this principle, each group under law representing a separate card:-Law,

General works.



Early Institutions.

Law, English,


Law, English, Cases,

Smith vs. Jones.

Under Biography, one of the largest main headings, collected works come first, and then separate works. Biographies are entered under two heads, first directly under this head, and then under a special sub-division in the department in which the man was distinguished. By biography is meant not simply personal history, but criticism of any subject relating to the man's work. In looking for an historical work, you do not look under the name of the country or place, but under History in general. Histories of wars are to be found under Military History, but not under the particular war in question.

All periodicals are put under the head periodical, except society reports which are entered under special topics. Catalogues of other libraries, especially of the Boston Athenaeum, Boston Public, and Brooklyn Libraries, are of great use in enabling one to find the book wanted. For finding magazine articles, Poole's Index is invaluable. There are also numerous biographies on various subjects, such as Mathematics, Political Economy, etc., which are easy of access, and of great use. To acquire a facility in the use of catalogue and reference books is a matter of time and patience, but when acquired, it is of the greatest value.

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