You Thought the Last Post Was Old School? We’re Drowning in Nostalgia Here

We went to the library, just like I told you.

And I don't mean to say this was a momentous event. We go to the library a lot—that's how we get the big fines, you see. And there's something satisfingly strange about the book selection in a library—much stranger than it is in a bookstore. There's no sense that you have to get the newest hottest books, it's more like you're challenged to find the oldest, strangest books, the ones you never knew existed.

Our library, which is not really our library (still being renovated, aaack!) but is the main branch, has, among its strange books and out-of-print wonders, a crazy extra floor at the top. It's past the escalators and the big open spaces. You go into a short blocky staircase that somehow has five separate mini-flights of stairs, that turn, and turn, and turn. You pass the wall that says "vandalizing will be punished," and just when you think you're going to end up in an attic somewhere, you get to the top and the light and air flood in and you're in the Art and Music sections. And guess what they have there? These.


Do you remember these? That's right, sort of like the old milk-delivery bottles. I almost didn't recognize them, though of course I did. Oh, card catalogues, I didn't know I'd missed you!

Do you remember how awesome it feels to pull one out, that long slow heavy drag, the cool metal of the loop against your finger? And inside, all the awesome cards?


With the faded typing and the incomprehensible spidery notes? Not to go all Nicholson Baker on you, but it was kind of transcendent. Chestnut looked through the scores and fake-books, and I got to play with the card catalogues. It should probably have been the other way around, right?


They seem like artifacts someone forgot to bury. It felt like a treasure map, you know? And so strange that it was for all the songs—not for the books, for some reason.

I think it's my new favorite floor of the library. Look forward to lots of talk about graphic novels and opera libretti.

6 thoughts on “You Thought the Last Post Was Old School? We’re Drowning in Nostalgia Here

  1. I want a card catalog in my house. They are so beautiful. I was recently in the middle school library and they were using old catalog cards as scratch paper next to the computer. I grabbed a handful. (long time library geek!)


  2. Just sitting here having a complete sense memory of pulling out a card catalog file drawer and flipping through the cards…


  3. I once read a libretto for the Ring Cycle just so I could understand what was going on in the Arthur Rackham illustrations.
    Also, I too miss the card catalogs.


  4. There was an article in the paper here today (Melbourne Australia) about a woman in the US who was arrested in front of her kids for overdue library books. That wasn’t you was it? And that wasn’t true was it?


  5. Ah, no, I have avoided jail time so far (but for how long????). Poor lady. You wonder how the library will be served by that. We are so remarkably lacking in compassion, or at least that’s what I’ve been feeling lately. But maybe I just don’t want to go to the big house….


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