University of Michigan Library card catalog

Remember those amazing old wooden library card catalogs – and how to use them? Look it up!

How to use library card catalogs

Do you know how to use the card catalog in the library? Do you ask the librarian about a certain book or do you look for it yourself?

Look for the most important item in the library; the card catalog. It’s that beautiful walnut cabinet with the many drawers. it contains cards on every book that the library system owns.

How do you find a book in the library? The first step in finding a particular book in the library is by looking in the card catalog. The card catalog is a file cabinet containing cards. This is actually similar to the index of a book.

Every title owned in the library system is listed in the card catalog, and to make it even easier, each title has more than one card. A fiction book has one card with the author’s name on the top line, and another card with the title on the top line.

Factual books have at least three cards: an author card, title card, and a subject card. All the cards are filed alphabetically in the catalog, as in a dictionary.

The type of book and where to look for it on the shelves is indicated in the upper left-hand corner of every card. For non-fiction, there is the Dewey Decimal Classification number on the book spine, identical to the call number. Fiction books are shelved by the author’s last name.

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