Card catalogs appear in many libraries and are used to categorize and locate the available books. The most widely used types are by subject, title and author, although certain libraries may use less common types. In many cases, card catalogs have been or will be replaced by computerized cataloging systems.


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With this type of card catalog, the cards are grouped by subject area. For example, if you were looking for a book about the Civil War, you would need to locate the drawer that encompasses the letters “Ci” and browse until you come to the Civil War books. From there, the books will likely be alphabetized either by author’s name or book title.


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In a title system, the books will be arranged alphabetically by title. Information about the book’s subject and author will then be listed underneath on the card. These are usually found in libraries that include publisher series.


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In an author catalog, the books are listed alphabetically based on the author’s last name. Cards for all books written by that author will then appear, and will be grouped alphabetically by either subject or title.


In many libraries, especially larger ones, card systems are being replaced by computers to save space and promote efficiency. In a computerized system, the book title, subject or author name is typed into the appropriate field. The search can then be narrowed down to pinpoint the specific book and where it is located in the library.

Other Types

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Other less-common types of catalogs may be present in places such as academic or research institutions. These include a government publications catalog which can be used for locating items such as IRS publications, and catalogs that list books alphabetically by their first sentence.