The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
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March 2003

Special Collections & Indexes—Fact Files and Indexes

Fact Files

Sooner or later, most reference librarians create files to record answers to frequently asked questions (especially answers that are not easy or quick to find) or to stash miscellaneous or ephemeral material that may come in handy. Even with the availability of the Internet, these fact files and clipping files can still be very useful. At the Library, some entries go back to the early part of the twentieth century. They cover every imaginable field of interest, ranging from a recipe file that discusses the origins of that Cincinnati specialty, goetta, to a citation for the poem quoted in the popular movie Four Weddings and a Funeral (W. H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues”), to sports files that record the force of a heavyweight boxer’s punch (potentially more than 1000 pounds).


Besides fact files, librarians create indexes to make their collections more accessible for users. This is particularly true for items not adequately described or accessed in the traditional library catalog. Although these homemade indexes are also being superseded by online databases and Internet tools, they still contain some valuable information.

The following are examples of some of the specialized files and indexes created by Library staff over the past century and a half.

APF: Auxiliary Poetry File

This unique, home-grown index (ca. 1900–1950) is comprised of fifty-five boxes of yellowed index cards with author/title citations to poems culled from magazines, newspapers and grade-school readers in the early part of the twentieth century. The file includes many full-text poems from local newspapers and other non-literary magazines—hand-cut and pasted by librarians. Selection is heavy on World War I-era patriotic verse. The APF is especially treasured by those of an earlier generation who wish to recall poems they once memorized from their McGuffey readers. Although limited in time and scope, this is an irreplaceable resource because there is no known index to newspaper and textbook verse. Affectionately referred to by staff as the “Awful Poetry File,” perhaps because most of the poems are “awfully” hard to locate and a few are just plain “awful,” the APF has been somewhat eclipsed in purpose, if not coverage, by the Internet.
Literature & Languages Department

Children’s Bibliographies

Are you looking for a list of children’s books on a particular topic? The Children's Learning Center maintains a substantial file of subject booklists of children’s literature, both fiction and nonfiction, for a wide range of ages. These lists reflect decades of subject exhibits, programs, and requests from Library users, and range from popular topics, such as arts and crafts, social issues, or countries to more unusual ones, such as teapots, woodcut illustrations, or wool.
Children’s Learning Center

Cincinnati File

Originally a reference collection of photographs of Cincinnati places and people, this file was expanded into a picture and information file, with the concentration of coverage pertaining to art, music theater, architecture, photography and dance. From its inception in 1965 until 1995 (when online access to Newsdex made articles about Cincinnati and the arts readily retrievable), articles from Cincinnati newspapers were clipped daily to add to this file; now only very specialized information and visual resources, such as articles on artists and musicians, are clipped from local newspapers. Other material, such as postcards, exhibition announcements, and publicity releases of Cincinnati arts organizations have been arranged by appropriate subject headings.
Art & Music Department

Cincinnati Summer Opera Index

This indexes the Cincinnati Summer Opera by season from 1920 to date and is arranged by artist, opera and character.
Art & Music Department

Clipping File (picture file)

This clipping file was started in 1937 as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), although many of the pictures are from an earlier era. This file of over 800,000 items (ranging in subject matter from “Accidents” to “Zoos”) is a great resource for students, commercial artists, teachers, or anyone else looking for pictures of specific subjects. The files are kept up to date with clippings from many popular magazines as well as visual references from calendars, photographs, greeting cards, postcards, etc.
Art & Music Department

Drama Analytics

Housed in an old-fashioned card catalog, the Drama Analytics indexes the contents of approximately 2,500 books and magazines for full-length and one-act plays. Drama anthologies, single-author collections, college textbooks, miscellaneous works, and a variety of magazines are indexed by author and title of each play, with ample cross references from alternate titles, translations, and multiple authors. Indexing began in the 1950s and continues today. Other specialized indexes in the Drama Catalog include a subject index to full-length and one-act plays, indexes to monologues and speeches, and a holiday index. These are replete with citations to locate pantomimes, dialect plays, fairy tales, plays for teens, and a host of other topics.
Literature & Languages Department

Fiction Index

Until fairly recent years, fiction was given comparatively little attention in library catalogs and information resources. To address the shortage of resources, staff in many libraries created their own information tools. Our Library was no exception. Beginning in the 1970s, the staff of the Fiction Department began creating a card file of genre headings for all new fiction added to the collection. The index has grown to include over 40,000 titles indexed with more than 50 headings and dozens of subheadings. The Fiction Index is supplemented by additional files, including indexes to sequels, mystery sleuths, biographical fiction, movies made from novels, and similar files for teen literature.
Fiction & Young Adults Department

Local History Card Catalog

The History and Genealogy Department has in its collection many older titles on the history of Cincinnati. These books, mainly published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, contain valuable historical and genealogical information but were not well indexed. About fifty years ago, a group of librarians resolved this problem by reviewing these sources literally word for word and creating index cards listing references to notable local people, places, businesses, historic events and general topics. Each card contains the book title, call number and page number for locating the information.
History & Genealogy Department


see Magazines & Newspapers

Ohioana Local Author Files

Letter from Helen Steiner Rice

The Ohioana files contain biographical sketches, letters, and news clippings about some 1200 Cincinnati and Hamilton County authors from 1948 to the present. Most of the files were generated from the annual Ohioana authors’ tea and reception held in Cincinnati since the late 1940s and hosted by this Library since 1983. The files are an invaluable source of information on local writers and are a veritable treasure-trove of the curious and the mundane. Many contain simple letters of acceptance or regret for the annual reception, such as the terse two-liner from Thomas Berger (Little Big Man, 1964) that says, “Thanks, but I live in London now,” or the one where Helen Steiner Rice sends her regrets with a gracious “Don’t glorify me… just magnify the message,” and signs off with her famous flowery signature.
Literature & Languages Department

Science Project Index

In addition to the Science Fair Project Collection maintained in the Science & Technology Department, the Children's Learning Center's Science Project Index offers access to science fair materials written for younger students. The index is arranged by project topic and includes thousands of citations.
Science & Technology Department

Short Story Analytics

H.W. Wilson Company’s Short Story Index (first published in 1953) is the primary resource for locating short stories by author, title, or subject in short story collections and anthologies. Before its publication, however, sometime in the late 1930s, Library staff began to compile their own Short Story Analytics, a card file author/title index to anthologies in our collection. The index ceased to be updated in the 1970s. Some of its citations are to anthologies that are not covered by the Wilson sources. To this day, even with the availability of Short Story Index online through the Library’s Research Databases collection, the staff of the Literature & Languages Department occasionally finds the Analytics a valuable resource.
Literature & Languages Department

Symphony Programs

Performance dates for all works performed on the symphony concert series of 36 major symphony orchestras are included in this index. It also provides access to annotations of works performed, biographical information on composers, and a record of performances by each orchestra and first performance information for contemporary works and composers.
Art & Music Department

Vocational Literature File

Several file drawers of pamphlets offer basic vocational information on a wide variety of blue collar, clerical, managerial, and professional occupations—everything from fashion designer to physician, geophysicist to gunsmith, veterinarian to taxidermist, librarian to locksmith, manicurist to midwife. Contents of the pamphlets include educational requirements, employment outlook, typical salaries, and descriptions of likely work responsibilities.
Government & Business Department