Debating “Discards”: A Response to Nicholson Baker

NANCY E. DOUGLAS

Abstract

In Nicholson Baker’s recent New Yorker article “Discards,” he characterizes as wicked, shortsighted and anti-intellectual those who have discarded public card catalogs and replaced them with online catalogs.1 He says the value of the card catalog is slighted when it is “tacitly understood” to be “merely a finding aid.” He believes that the card catalog is a much more efficient and accurate research tool than the online catalog and that it has a far-underrated value as a physical artifact worthy of research in its own right. He concedes that the cataloging backlogs of the 1970s required automation to eliminate them, . . .

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