A few months ago, a teenager approached the reference desk and asked me where the card catalog was. I was shocked and impressed. Oh, I've been asked that question before. But never by someone so young!
Over the past two decades, many large libraries have disposed of their card catalog cabinets. Due to architectural problems, that was harder for the Doheny Library at the University of Southern California. But the librarians found a creative solution:
The card catalog drawers at Doheny Library haven’t had cards in them for years. They are built into the wall of a charming alcove off to the left of the circulation desk. Removing them would not necessarily be difficult, but the aesthetics of the little space they occupy is quite enjoyable and older alumni love to regale us with tales of how they spent hours there transcribing titles, call numbers, etc.
Rather than remove the drawers, we have instituted a new use: fundraising. Enter the Top Drawer Society. Donors who contribute $10,000 at one time or over four years and are honored with an engraved plaque placed on one of the drawers. Simple enough. But what we did not expect was that donors would use these drawers to leave secret gifts to their children/grandchildren/etc. who are currently attending USC.