At the Library #TBT

It’s Finals Week, and the library has been an especially busy place. Today, students can be found looking up resources on their (or the library’s) computers, but 50 years ago their searches looked more like this:


Students using the card catalog to find resources, circa 1951. University Photographs, RS 25/3/F, Box 2046

Of course, not everything has changed since then (although the card catalog is certainly a relic of the past). Students still spend a great deal of time studying in the library, and they are still spotted hunched over a table with a book, notebook, and pen. True, many of them have laptops or tablets with them as well, but the spirit is the same.

For those who still have exams, papers, and/or projects to complete, best of luck! For those who are done, congrats on a semester finished!

CyPix: A House of Books

"This is the House That Books Built." Library Display at the May 1928 VEISHEA. (University Photographs 22/12/G, box 1724)

“This is the House That Books Built.” Library display at the May 1928 VEISHEA. (University Photographs 22/12/G, box 1724)

The library’s contribution to the 1928 VEISHEA was the house made of books that you see above. The sign over the door reads “This is the House That Books Built.” June is Freshman Orientation month at Iowa State and here in the library we are preparing to welcome students and their families by showing them a bit of what we do to support their time at the University. This VEISHEA construction was the 1920s librarian’s way of showing the wealth of knowledge available at the campus library.

We don’t advocate the use of books as building blocks in displays, but we do appreciate the sentiment. As an archivist, I would say “These are the books that archives built” – underscoring that books and publications rely on archives as their foundation –  drawing from the observations, evidences, and human experiences found in records, manuscripts, photographs, and other archival materials.

As we welcome visitors over the next month, we encourage you to avail yourself of the wealth of books, databases, manuscripts, records, media, photographs, spaces, technology, and people eager to assist you in both Special Collections and elsewhere in the library.


CyPix: Ode to the Card Catalog

The card catalog. That gargantuan set of filing cabinets with drawers full of catalog record cards was oh, so useful in the days before wide-spread internet access. Now, of course, we search for the library items we want or need on the online catalog, which is easier in many ways. Many of you probably remember using the card catalog to find the books you wanted, not unlike the student in the photo below.

A student using the card catalog, 1948. [location]

A student researching near the card catalog, 1948. RS 25/3/F, Box 2046

This is how I learned to navigate libraries, too, and am part of the last generation to do so. Card catalogs bring about feelings of nostalgia in people – you can even purchase old ones to use for storage or conversation pieces in your home! However, moving the catalog online provided major benefits like saving space that can be used for other things like study areas or more stacks, and convenience – we can just type in a title and see right away if it’s available. Still, although the card catalog is more or less extinct in its natural habitat, it is an iconic piece of library history.

Feeling nostalgic? More photos of card catalogs in Parks Library can be found here. Also, in case you want to know about its origins and some fun facts, here is a history of the card catalog. Many more photographs involving the library or other buildings and departments on campus can be found in our University Photograph Collection – come in and see what we can find for you!

Historical Images of Parks Library

As the semester draws to a close, many students have been spending time here in the Library studying for exams and finishing up those end-of-the-term papers.  The library is less crowded now than at the beginning of the week, but students are still finishing up their studies here in the library!

We all often have our favorite places to go in the library, and for some that might be the high-ceilinged Periodical Room.  We recently scanned a few historical images of the present Periodical Room in Parks Library, and I thought it might be fun to show a few of these here.  Even though the basic design of the Periodical Room remains similar now, the photographs reveal changes over the years – there is no longer a reference desk and the hats from the 1920s have also disappeared!

1927 (University Photographs, box 146)

Here’s a closeup of the 1927 image above.  (University Photographs, box 146)

1935 (University Photographs, box 146)

The caption on the back of the 1935 photograph reads:  “The 300 seats in the main reading room of the Iowa State College Library are usually filled throughout the day by students who are using library materials in the preparation of papers or reports.  Approximately 12,000 volumes of reference books are on the shelves in the room.”

1943 (University Photographs, box 146)

1954/1955 (University Photographs, box 147)

Please note that these are not the only historical photographs we have of the library here in the University Archives – more are available in the University Photograph collection.  In addition, information can be found on the library’s history in various places such as our subject file of news clippings and other materials  (RS 4/8/4).  For other historical images of Iowa State, you can also visit the Digital Collections (go under CYbrary: ISU Digital Archives and then University Photographs) or our Flickr site.