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The Collation

Card catalog holder-opener

Catalog cards held open in drawer by a clear plastic wedge
Catalog cards held open in drawer by a clear plastic wedge

I have no idea what it’s properly called, but the mystery object from last week is a V-shaped clear plastic wedge with a notch cut into the base, and it’s a tool for taming tightly-packed card catalog drawers. Once you find the the right spot in the drawer, simply jam the wedge between the cards. The notch fits neatly over the guard rod, and the wedge keeps the cards open. Now you’ve got both hands free to transcribe information from the card.

Catalog cards held open in drawer by a clear plastic wedge

Even though pretty much everything in the Folger collection is represented (to some extent, at least) in the online catalog at and online finding aids at,1 the card catalog remains useful. It includes information and access points that can’t be found online, and it reveals the history of how the collection has been interpreted over time.

When researchers return at the end of June, some will notice that the card catalog looks smaller than before. Rest assured that all the cards will still be present, it’s just that the unused growth space at the back of each drawer will be gone. The two mis-matched sets of “overflow” cabinets will also be gone. The fourteen classic dark wood cabinets with brass fittings, filled almost to capacity, can hold everything.

  1. For the difference between these two resources, see the post “Manuscripts in libraries: catalog versus finding aid” from 21 February 2017.


Lovely. I wish I had one back about 50 years ago. And well done in preserving the catalog. It’s often the added data that’s a surprise in research

Mary Augusta Thomas — April 2, 2024


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