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University of Iowa News Release

July 5, 2005

UI Libraries To Turn Catalog Cards Into Art

What to do with millions of obsolete library card catalog cards? The University of Iowa Libraries is turning many of them into art.

As part of the celebration of its 150th anniversary this year, the UI Libraries will distribute old card catalog cards to people across Iowa and around the country and invite them to create a work of art on the card. The results will be displayed as part of a public art project over the next year.

UI Libraries Assistant Conservator Kristin Baum, who oversees the art project, said about one million cards will be sent in the coming months to school children, book artists, poets, writers and other artists.

"Through the project we've named cARTalog, we hope to find as many creative uses as possible for the salvaged card catalog cards by reinventing them as mail art, artist books, collage, poetry and sculpture," says Baum. "We also hope to generate a sense of community among those who love the card catalog."

Anyone interested in participating in the project can obtain cards by contacting Baum at 319-335-5503 or by email at

Once a mainstay of libraries, card catalogs have become extinct because of advances in technology. The information once kept on a card for the library's holdings of books, periodicals and other volumes is now maintained on a searchable computer database so the paper cards have been destroyed and the massive wooden catalogs that held them sold. The one million cards adopted by the cARTalog project represent the libraries' last cards, Baum said.

Other events planned to mark the libraries' sesquicentennial during the 2005-06 academic year include a documentary video about the history of the UI Libraries; a film series at the Bijou Theater featuring movies about libraries and librarians; an exhibit on librarian culture that shows how librarians are portrayed in the media; and a public lecture featuring Dr. Mark Edmundson, author of the book "Why Read?" and a professor of English at the University of Virginia, who will discuss how libraries can advance the state of liberal arts education.

An online memory site for alumni, students, faculty and staff to leave their memories of the UI Libraries has also been established. It can be found at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010,