2 UVA students rescuing Alderman Library’s card catalog

Updated: Jan. 13, 2020 at 2:25 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Two students at the University of Virginia are on a mission to save information from Alderman Library’s card catalog.

Neil Curtis and Sam Lemley are candidates for doctorates of philosophy in English. They have been working since November to rescue millions of cards in the hope to preserve information for future research.

Neil Curtis and Sam Lemley working to save the card catalog at UVA's Alderman Library.
Neil Curtis and Sam Lemley working to save the card catalog at UVA's Alderman Library.(WVIR)

In most cases, key from information from these cards was not included when they were transferred onto the Virgo online system in 1989.

“Sometimes cards survive, but there’s no record for the book that it describes in the online system. So the only record the only evidence of this books existence is in the card catalog,” Lemley explained.

The library’s card catalog was slated to be discarded until Curtis and Lemley volunteered to rescue it.

"Nostalgia really didn't play a role in our decision for undertaking this project. It’s about preserving history," Curtis said.

Curtis and Lemley have spent a couple of months boxing up the cards and moving them to an off -site storage facility. They are hoping to finish that work sometime the week of January 13, 2020.

Card catalog at UVA's Alderman Library
Card catalog at UVA's Alderman Library(WVIR)

“Now that we are saving the card catalog in its entirety, that’s going to present a lot of opportunities to current students and future students to explore what principles governed the information organization system here and at other institutions,” Curtis said.

In the future the two students plan to put a cabinet in the lobby of Alderman Library for a rotating exhibit of the cards for students and researchers to explore.

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