A virtual Copyright card catalog? Maybe not a bad idea.

This is a follow-up to my post of two weeks ago about making images of the pre-1978 Copyright catalog cards available online for searching just as one would search the physical cards.  More comments came in about that post than any previous one and the overall reaction was very positive.  We very much appreciate the feedback.  It’s the principal purpose of this blog to let you know what we’re doing and what we have in mind and get your thoughts and recommendations.  We want to stay in step with your expectations and avoid hearing “What were they thinking?” after the fact.

Because of the positive response, we intend to pursue this option.  It seems to be a good interim step while we figure out how to muster the resources, maybe through crowd sourcing, to achieve the eventual goal of robust word searching of titles and names.  Some of the comments included specific suggestions such as the ability to skip some preset number of cards and to display only the top half inch of the cards in the scrollable search panel with a full card display in an adjoining panel.  These suggestions are most helpful and most welcome.

While the overall card catalog is large, it’s divided into six time periods and a seventh set for assignments and transfers.  Two of these seven sets have already been digitized and the completion of a third one is near.  The sets could be made available as they are scanned; no need to wait until they’re all done.  Good performance will be fundamental to the efficacy of a virtual card catalog and that will be a key factor in selecting the type and size of derivative images to be displayed as well as how they are organized.

We’ve already begun market research to find out who has done this before and to benefit from their experience.  There are probably pitfalls to be avoided and we don’t want to reinvent the wheel.  We’ll reach out to organizations and particularly libraries that have similar online catalogs.  The Internet Archive was mentioned in a couple of comments.  We’ve been working with them for the past two years on the scanning of the published Catalog of Copyright Entries and will consult with them on this initiative as well.  The Princeton University Library has a supplementary online catalog that is somewhat like what we have in mind and we’ll seek input on their experience.  If you are aware of others that have put virtual card catalogs online, please let us know.

I’ll report on plans and progress on this initiative in future posts.  Thank you again for your feedback and I look forward to receiving more of your comments.


  1. Steve Kovalan
    April 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    The virtual Copyright card catalog would be a welcome step. Is there any timeframe for getting it up and running? Would this also include access to the catalog records of the assignment files? Thanks so much for the blog.

  2. Mike Burke
    April 6, 2012 at 4:36 pm


    We don’t have a timeframe yet but it’s a priority now that we’ve seen the interest in an online virtual card catalog. It would include images of the assignment cards. They happened to be the first cards digitized.


  3. Sylvia Havens
    May 13, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Thank you for taking our Government offices into the twenty first century.

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