how to find books in 1905

11 Apr

CC image courtesy of ttcopley on Flickr

I’m currently working on a paper about the history of the DC Public Library and have been looking through articles in the Washington Post from the early 20th century (thank you, ProQuest).  While public libraries have transformed in many ways, some things haven’t changed.  Here’s an excerpt from an article published February 19, 1905 titled “How to Find Books.”


At the District Public Library, readers often wish a certain book or books, but dislike to take the trouble to consult the card catalogue to find the call numbers.  This feeling is perfectly natural, and those who work in libraries thoroughly understand it.  But, nevertheless, annoying though it is to some, to find these call numbers is in most cases absolutely necessary, for it is by them that the books are arranged in classes and put in their places on the shelves, and without the numbers to guide them the pages are at a loss to find the books — or at best the books can only be found after a long search, which means a tedious wait for the reader.  Consequently care should be taken to copy the whole call number accurately…

The catalogue itself as used in the District Public Library is the simplest and most widely used form of the card catalogue, and should be consulted exactly like a dictionary.  It is arranged in alphabetic order, and books are entered under their author’s name and also under their subject.

“How to Find Books: Method of Cataloguing at the District Library. Look for the Call Numbers System Employed is Much Like that of a Dictionary — Books Listed Under the Name of the Author, the Subject, and the Title — Recent Additions to the Shelves — some Useful Information.” The Washington Post (1877-1922): R3. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1993). 1905. <>

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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in archives


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