The card catalogue fills the wooden cabinets that run through the centre of the Mitchell Reading Room. The drawers contain thousands of handwritten cards listing the bibliographic details of the books, maps, pamphlets, magazines, news cuttings, scrapbooks, playbills, theatre programs, menus and sheet music in the Mitchell Library.
Before electronic digital catalogues, card catalogues were used to locate specific material on the shelves in a library. The State Library moved to an electronic catalogue digital archiving system in 1980, and as a result, additions to the card catalogue stopped.
The cards are filed alphabetically by author or subject, and where possible list the date, title, publisher and description. Each of these cards carries a special number based on the Dewey decimal classification system, which was developed by American Melvil Dewey in 1876. The Dewey system classifies all books by subject, and places like subjects together on the shelf.