Remember the old card catalog? You'd have to have been here in the late 1980s, or earlier, because we switched over to an online catalog at that time. The old card catalog may seem quaint now, but just like today's online catalog it was your access to our books and other holdings.
If you knew the title or author the card catalog was easy to use, it just got a little tricky when searching by subject, because you needed to know the formal subject heading terms. With online catalogs, like the "Dynix" system we started with (and we were the first SUNY four year school to take our catalog online,) it's easier in many ways, you can do a more free form search, and pick up things more easily.
The old card catalogs represented many many hours of work to build and maintain, it was a little hard for library staff to see them go, but progress will out and we saw that the new online catalogs would serve much better.