punched cards for library book circulation

library punched card

I recently found a punched-card book circulation card in a library book.  Old-fashioned forms of meta-data incorporated in the book indicate:

  1. The book was published in 1971 by Librarie Droz of Geneva.  Information printed on title page.
  2. The book was printed in Belgium.  Information printed on end page.
  3. The Georgetown University Libraries acquired the book about June 19, 1973, apparently unbound.  Stamped on end page.
  4. The Heckman Bindery (“bound to please”) bound the book in July, 1973, in N. Manchester, Indiana.  Heckman Bindery used an “approved library binding.” Sticker applied to inside back cover.

The punched-card circulation card probably was incorporated into the book in 1973.[*]  That’s only 40 years ago.  This library book is now checked out with a light-scanned barcode feeding into a computerized, online-queriable book circulation system.  The contents of the book, Kitab Bilawhar wa Budasf, were probably written in eighth-century central Asia.  Imagine this library book in circulation 1300 years in the future!

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[*] Punched card library book circulation systems were in use in the 1970s.  CalMeachem over at the Straight Dope Message Board wrote:

When they first switched over to computers, Rutgers University library had an IBM card punch machine at the checkouts. When you took out a book they manually punched in the call number on the card, along with your information, then duplicated the card. One went into a stack to be batch-processed in those pre-network days, the other into the card holder glued into the book from pre-computer days. Checking out a stack of books could take a long time. And I kinda miss than quaint Ka-CHUNK, chunka-chunka-chunka-CHUNK of the old IBM card punches. Nowadays they just laser-scan the bar code and it all automatically goes into the system.

Giles added:

I worked in two academic libraries in Australia that had similar systems back in the 1970s.

2 thoughts on “punched cards for library book circulation”

  1. It would have been better if you had referred to the card as an IBM punched card as they were often if not generally called. Poor IBM, has everyone forgotten what IBM gave the world? — Where would we be if they had not invented the IBM punched card? That is what made possible the computer era.
    An old timer.

  2. Good point, old timer. Herman Hollerith, who went on to found the Tabulating Machine Company, which merged with three other companies to form the Computing Tabulating Recording Company, which was renamed IBM, invented the machine-readable punched card. IBM made the punched card popular. No offense to IBM intended.

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