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"A Piece of Library History: The Card Catalog" by Nancy Brown Martinez, CSWR & SC, Archivist, Southwest Reference

by UL&LS Administration on 2017-10-26T08:43:32-06:00 | Comments


What we know as the old UNM Zimmerman Library or Coronado Library, the original library, in the West Wing, was designed by John Gaw Meem and opened in April 1938.  Meem left space in the main hall, on the sides of the circulation desk, for a series of wooden card catalog drawers. They were located under the Three People’s Mural, painted by Kenneth Adams in 1939.  (See photos).



(In 1961 the original building was named Zimmerman Library in honor of UNM’s President James F. Zimmerman.  Additions to the Library on the East side in 1966 and 1973 nearly tripled the size of the original building.)


Today one surviving section of that 1938 card catalog is located in front of the Anderson Reading Room, at the Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections, in the West Wing.  Before the age of computers, librarians patiently entered the records of the University Library’s holdings on to index cards and put them in drawers.  Students searched the cards for sources for term papers and dissertations.  Now a days some students and alums like to take a photo of themselves standing in front of the old card catalog, holding their smart phones, to show the contrast of researching then and now.



The old card catalog in front of the Anderson Room has index cards in some of the drawers.  They still offer useful information to Southwest reference librarians and researchers.  A few are:

  •  Pre 1963 biographical citations for New Mexico people
  • Detailed index for New Mexico Magazine (1923-1973)
  • Detailed index for El Palacio Magazine (1913-1975)
  • Notes on individual documents in the Mexican Archives of New Mexico (1821-1832)
  • Detailed index of articles in the Albuquerque Journal (1968-1974)
  • Book records from our former Special Collections Library (pre computer)



Photos: Card catalog drawers, 1937-1940, in Meem’s Coronado Library, from Facilities Planning Records, UNMA 028, at CSWR.


Source for Zimmerman Library background: “The University of New Mexico’s Zimmerman Library: A New Deal Landmark Articulates the Ideas of the PWA,” by Audra Bellmore, New Mexico Historical Review, Spring 2013.

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