I spent a lot of time at the library in my youth. Back then, there were story times for preschoolers throughout the year and crafts and puppet shows for elementary age kids in the summer, but beyond that, the focus was on teaching kids to use the card catalog to find the treasures buried among stacks of books.
I would load up with several small sheets of paper and a small pencil and head straight to the card catalog. My sister would never bother with the card catalog. She would go straight to the children’s section to find some colorful book that caught her eye. My mom would assist my brother, who was still a preschooler at the time. By the time the rest of them had picked out at least a couple of books, I was still perusing the catalog, hoping that the right book would pop out at me. It usually did.
The librarians would always ask me if I needed any help or suggestions, and I usually said no. After a while, they learned that for me, the process of finding a book was just as important as reading it. I loved the smell and look of the catalog drawers, the yellowed cards, the typed words. I even enjoyed writing down the titles and call numbers so I could find them on the shelf. Granted, this method took a lot of time, but for me it was a great adventure.
Learning how to search the catalog served me well when I had to write research papers in high school and especially in college. Most of my fellow students knew only the basics of the card catalog and I noticed they always asked for help, sometimes from me. By that time, I was an old pro. The only time I asked for help was when I couldn’t find the book on the shelf.
If the modern, online catalog had existed when I was growing up, I think I would have read twice as many books as I did, if that were possible. It is so easy to find things now, and our catalog suggests similar books. It is a treasure chest of information with the click of a button.
Don’t be surprised that if you ask our librarians for assistance with searching the catalog, that they will show you how to search it for yourself. Sometimes patrons don’t like this; they are in a hurry or they want someone else to do the work for them. Librarians can help you find some of the jewels they have found, but sometimes there is a concealed, sparkling diamond on the way to the treasure chest that only you can discover. If you do happen to find one, please tell us about it so we can share the thrill of finding a buried treasure with you.