The quest to make library information more accessible is leading to the demise of traditional card catalogs.
Library patrons in Lawrence are on the verge of losing a familiar friend.
On-line computer systems will eventually make obsolete the library card catalogs at Kansas University and Lawrence Public Library.
William Crowe, dean of KU libraries, said a few diehards would prefer to cling to the old system of index cards in heavy wooden cabinets.
"All of us have attachments to how we use libraries," he said. "I grew up on a card catalog."
However, he said, growth throughout the nation of electronic cataloging systems prompted shrinkage of traditional card catalogs.
"The card catalog is slowly disappearing," Crowe said.
The city jumped on the bandwagon with a plan to spend $150,000 next year to install an automated catalog system at Lawrence Public Library.
Charlee Glinka, head of technical services at the public library, said not everyone would savor the moment card catalog shelves get checked out.
"I imagine there are some people who like the card catalog. It served its purpose," she said. "It's become necessary and economically feasible ... to speak the same language as other libraries in the state."
Information about a library's holdings placed on computer can be shared with libraries throughout the world. In minutes, a high school student in Dodge City can complete the search for a book on the shelf at KU.
"You can't do that with a card catalog," Crowe said. "It has a fixed entry point."
He said computer catalogs don't require users to have the kind of detailed knowledge of rules concerning catalog main entries, subject headings, filing order and alphabetization. With a computer, library patrons simply search for a key word.
"That's the beauty of automation," Crowe said.
On-line systems reduce the problems caused by vandalism to card catalog files or from fire or water damage.
KU keeps back-up copies of the computer catalog at an off-campus location, Crowe said. It was never practical to maintain a duplicate card catalog, he said.
Crowe said 600,000 titles in KU's library weren't yet stored on computer. Ironically, patrons who rely exclusively on the on-line system, which contains 1.4 million titles, miss information only found in the old card catalog.
"Some students have never seen a card catalog," he said. "Trying to get people to use it is a challenge sometimes."