USC Doheny Library cards
(Photo/Dustin Snipes)

Before the days of Google, the internet and personal computers, there was one tried-and-true place to begin a search: the library card catalog room.

An unfamiliar scene for most of today’s students, this 1950s-era photo of the USC Doheny Memorial Library’s card catalog room captures a typical busy day of academic pursuit. Today, the room is filled with study chairs and tables — but the USC Libraries network continues to be at the forefront of scholarly discovery and the heart of the university’s research community.

Comprising 23 libraries and information centers across USC’s campuses, its extensive services include lending and preservation for nearly 6 million books and rare manuscripts, with some materials dating back to the 14th century. Students can also find a vast digital repository of media, book and journal archives, free computer loans and a calendar filled with academic workshops and special exhibits. Digital projects housed on the USC Libraries’ website can be accessed anytime and include USC Digital Voltaire, a multimedia, cross-discipline exhibit examining the writer’s letters and poems, and an interactive exhibition of Wayne Thom’s Southern California photography.

To help streamline research, the network recently introduced a website redesign with improved search functions and added two new medical libraries. An extensive research guide for undergraduates offers a live chat with a librarian as students browse resources for more than 50 subjects. Online video tutorials outline best practices for avoiding plagiarism, evaluating sources and more. The Special Collections department also offers a class that teaches students how to find and use primary sources in their research.

But even with these advances in scholarly pursuit, the card catalogs haven’t disappeared entirely. They are now gifted to library supporters, who receive a name plaque and gold key for their own drawer. One donor leaves notes for her USC grandchildren to find — the start of a new tradition for search discovery.

Learn how you can support USC Libraries through the USC Libraries’ giving site.

UniversityLibrariesUSC History