Wasn’t the justifying premise for the internet and its use “ease” and “speed”? Information at our disposal, in seconds or microseconds, with a few tappings of some keys? And, true enough, the internet and technology does ease many tasks – I’ve never had the dubious pleasure of filing hundreds of cards a night, or typing 3 or more sets of cards for every acquisition, or attempting to wrangle complex collections into some trackable semblance of order – all thanks to the automation in place before I came to this profession.
But what about the things that are lost? Like cherrywood and the cantankerous/quirky personalities and preferences of each typewriter? The photo of this card catalog is sentimental, bringing to mind paper edges and discovered titles and subjects and books from when I was a kid standing at the card catalog and rummaging through for the curiosity of what I might find. I hated the transition to computer catalogs when I actually had to type in a keyword – I didn’t want to find anything specific, I wanted to see simply what was out there! But with specificities and limiters, the new card catalog demanded I have something particular in mind.
In the blurb tagging this photo, the photographer sentimentalizes a little himself, saying, “Does anyone even remember the dewey decimal system…or dewey himself? This card catalog is purely decorative, all the drawers are locked….” Is he, too, wistful, looking at these remnants of what used to be?
Perhaps, though, I am sentimental because I know only the frustration of the present and technology – how long it takes to upload a single picture from flickr.com to my blog when one small thing goes wrong, or the frustration of a kinesthetic/visual learner flapping back and forth between pages on a computer screen while desperately wanting to lay it all down on paper and spread it out on a desk. If I had the perspective of the fingers once working this card catalog, perhaps my response would be hallelujahing that the thing was finally locked…..