Page 43 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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Judaica and Hebraica in Book Catalogs
l a s t
t w e n t y
y e a r s
or so have seen the publication of a
number of catalogs of Jewish collections in book form. The
reasons for this are to be sought in many quarters. There has
been relative prosperity, especially during the sixties. New col­
lections have been established; old ones have grown. Part of this
growth has been connected to the recovery and reorganization
of resources scattered during the Holocaust. Catalogs have ex­
panded sometimes to the point where their size and complexity
have called into question their future viability. A t the same time,
technology has opened the way to new solutions and has caused
us to a lter many fixed notions.
Developments in the life of libraries justify confining this
discussion to book catalogs of the past two decades. Reprints of
older catologs w ill not be listed here unless supplements were
issued during this period. The elimination of earlier material is
not entirely arbitrary. During the decades under review a quali­
tative change has taken place. W h ile the limitations of the tradi­
tional, printed book catalog—expense and fixity—have long been
acknowledged, the card catalog, too, has come to exhibit its own
hardening of the arteries, especially in long-established, large
research collections. It has become a behemoth, sometimes con­
taining millions upon millions of cards. W ith size has come
complexity. Entries for corporate bodies, in particular, have
become ever more complicated. But in a card catalog tray only
one card can be examined at a time. This does not readily lend
itself to perceiving patterns o f organization.
As the catalog grows this lim itation becomes more serious.
To find a card you must understand how all the cards are filed.
Also, we now know that cards are not as permanent as it was
once believed. Tex t is rubbed away and corners with call num­
bers on them break off. Furthermore, i t is difficult and costly
to introduce changes retroactively, so that inconsistencies are
virtua lly inevitable over a period of years. Finally there was a
time when the card catalog was hailed for the ease w ith which