Why is finding stuff so hard?

Peabody Visual Aid created by Ruby Ethel Cundiff

Recently came across this collection of visual aids created by Ruby Ethel Cundiff in the 1930s and 1940s. This collection was designed to assist library users navigate the system of card catalogs and paper resources. The entire collection can be viewed on Flickr.

These hand-drawn posters appear as innocently naive to our twenty-first century digital eyes. Our romanticized view of the past creates the familiar impression of “everything used to be so much better” or the Laura Ingalls Rose-Colored Glasses. I’m referring to the 1970s TV series Little House on the Prairie starring handsome Michael Landon and a cute Melissa Gilbert who made living in a 2 room cabin with no heat in the frozen upper midwest idyllic. These tinted views also lend themselves to the complaints of how everything was better when the card catalog reigned. How online catalogs are impossible to use. I bet in 1932 people were complaining about how they wished libraries still used the stone tablet method of recording information.

Well, if you look closer at these visual aids, they were created in order to make finding information easier, even in the 1930s. An early version of today’s video tutorial, like the one below:

So, correct information was deemed difficult to find even in “the golden days” of the card catalog. Those wonderful days of the Great Depression (yes, that’s sarcasm). Another similarity is the eagerness and desire of librarians to help our patrons find what they are looking for, or at least give them the tools to navigate either a card catalog or a digital database. Librarians continue to build on their tradition as helpful guides throughout the information universe.

Stop by your Robinson Music Library and let us help you!

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