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Card Catalog

Card Catalog History

The University Library's card catalog historically consisted of two main components: a "Shelf List" (a listing of all cataloged items in call number order) and a "General Catalog" (an alphabetical file of authors, subjects, and titles) for material acquired by the University Library before 1978. In November 2012, the General Catalog was removed and recycled (see 10/15/12 News & Events).  The Shelf List was retained in storage.  Starting in 1969, all cards in the General Catalog were microfilmed.  That microfilm, with supplements through 1977, is stored in the Oak Street Remote Storage Facility (call number FILM 019.1 Un31c). 

Card Catalogs on the 2nd Floor, Main Library

Portions of the catalog of current value in providing access to specific materials continue to be housed in the Main Library.  The Serial Record, Thesis File, and all University of Illinois main entry cards are located in the Information Desk/Circulation area of the second floor of the Main Library.

The Serials Record includes multiple cross-references that make it particularly useful if you have incomplete or questionable information. For example, the card catalog has cross-references linking:

The Thesis File contains records for the archival copies of all theses and dissertations on deposit in the library from 1873 until the beginning of 1984. These are arranged by year, then in alphabetical order by author. Note that beginning in 1967, bachelor's honors theses were segregated out and put at the end of each year under the heading "microfiche."

The University of Illinois main entry cards include cards for publications about the University, as well as publications issued by university bodies.

How to Use a Card Catalog


Brown, Mark Herbert, 1900-
The frontier years: L.A. Huffman, photographer of the
plains, by Mark H. Brown and W. R. Felton. New York,
Holt [1955]

272 p. illus., ports., maps (on lining papers) 29 cm.

Bibliography: p. 259-261.

1. Frontier and pioneer life--The West. 2. Indians of North Amer-
ica--The West. 3. The West--Hist.--Pictorial works. 4. Huffman,
Laton Alton, 1854-1931. I. Felton, William Reid, 1894- joint
author. II. Title.

[Sample Author Card]

The card catalog has a card for the author as well as cards for each of the tracings (the Arabic and Roman numerals at the bottom of the card). The online catalog, however, only provides access to the title and first author for many items found in the card catalog.

General Information for Using Card Catalogs

First-word articles (a, an, the) in any language are ignored in filing the cards. Certain other common words are also ignored for filing purposes. A list of the ignored words is posted at the end of each group of card catalog cases. Words are alphabetized exactly as spelled without regard to diacritical marks. Thus, ü= u , but æ=ae and so, for example there will be entries under both Encyclopaedia and Encyclopedia. Initialisms and acronyms (e.g., AFL-CIO) are filed at the beginning of each letter of the alphabet. Identical words are filed in Author-Subject-Title order:

Subject Searching in Card Catalogs

The first step in subject searching is translating your topic into the terminology of the catalog. This is usually a straightforward process, but language and perspective change over time, and the heading used by a library may sometimes be surprising. The University Library used the ninth edition of the Library of Congress Subject Headings for cataloging books by subject in the card catalog; a copy of this edition of Subject Headings is located in the main catalog area.

Begin searching under the narrowest term that encompasses your topic; cross-references will help lead you to the correct heading. The Library uses various approaches of subdividing larger topics, and this may be confusing. Geographical regions may be subjects subdivided into smaller topics or subjects may be subdivided by geographical region. When a term used in the Subject Headings is followed by (Indirect) it means that the subject may have geographical subdivisions. For example, if you were interested in obtaining information on rodeo traditions in Montana, you would first look in the Subject Headings under "rodeo." The entry reads:

Rodeos (Indirect)

  sa Rodeo clowns
Trick riding
Western riding
Women in rodeos

Horse sports
Western riding

The "Indirect" indicates that this heading may have subdivisions by geographic region, e.g., Rodeos--Montana. Note also the specificity of the "see also" (sa) suggestions. The "xx" entries are slightly broader headings at the next level of specificity. All of these headings are also "Indirect" and may have --Montana as a subdivision.

It may be, however, that even these headings are too specific for the Library's collection. In this case, you might try searching directly under a subdivision of Montana. Some possibilities are listed under "Montana" in the Subject Headings.

Filing Order of Cards

The following shows the filing order for various subject headings beginning with "Music":

1. AUTHOR Music, Antonio Zoran, 1909-

Music--Acoustics and physics
Music, Chinese
Music and literature
Music-halls (hyphenated words equal two words)

Note: Pay attention to the exact subject heading given; its form and punctuation pinpoint its location in the card catalog.

3.TITLES The Music Yearbook