Card Catalog Conversion: The Revenant




Scott, Bethany
Vinson, Emily

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Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s libraries around the world tackled the monumental task of converting miles of card catalog to machine readable formats accessible by computer. While this immense undertaking was ably handled and traditional card catalogs are rarely seen in libraries today, they continue to be the only means of access to some legacy archival collections.

This was the case with a substantial portion of the KUHT TV video collection at the University of Houston Special Collections. In the summer of 2015, six Rolodexes were donated along with several thousand videos representing almost 30 years of public television broadcasting in Houston. With a goal of gaining intellectual control and creating patron access to this unique video collection, Bethany Scott, UH Coordinator of Digital Projects and Emily Vinson, UH Audiovisual Archivist designed a pilot project to assess methodologies for card catalog conversion in the twenty-first century.

In this presentation we will discuss past approaches to card catalog digitization, and the two methods we utilized to convert our Rolodex card data into a usable digital format - manual data entry for handwritten cards and scanning, OCR and data parsing for typewritten cards. We will discuss the pros and cons of each approach, how this pilot will inform future UH projects and ideas for others wishing to create digital access points for similar collections.


Presentation for the 2016 Texas Conference on Digital Libraries (TCDL).