My 17 year old son and I went to a local art gallery, Artspace, to see a show on libraries. I had been meaning to get to it for about a month. Every Sunday it would occur to me that it was a good day to go. And every Sunday I would look at the hours online and see that the gallery was closed on Sundays. Finally, on a weekday, I managed to get there; it was one day before the installation was closing. There were photographs by Nina Katchdourian of books from individual’s libraries that were arranged to say something of the owner (sorted books project). They were lovely to look at and funny as well.
Another artist had blown up images of cards from the old card catalogue system. I got very excited and remarked to my son what a beautiful system Dewey Decimal is. I love the call numbers, there is something wonderful about those cards. He looked at me curiously. I rewound my mind, remembering his age. I breathlessly explained that before we all had computers, this is how you would look for a book: the cards, the drawers, see how it’s organized, the numbers….oh never mind. Personally, I miss the tactile pleasure of strumming through the cards in the long drawers one used to find at libraries. My children like to pretend I’m a nut, getting excited by trifling things such as card stock, but I caught my son marveling at the sculpture of lucite shelves sitting on a mirror creating a multidimensional effect. We all get excited.
I was recently looking for a copy of The Odyssey at the library in my College. I stood at the computer and found the book’s location, oh how ingenious, I thought when I saw that they used the old cards for scrap paper to write the call numbers. I wrote it down, checked it out, and thought myself very clever: keeping the card to use as a bookmark. That night in bed, I turned it over to see which card I had: Homerus, The Ilaid and the Odyssey.