Brief History Of Library Automation 19301996 Essay

Brief History Of Library Automation 1930-1996 Essay, Research Paper

Brief History of Library Automation: 1930-1996An automated library is one where a computer system is used tomanage one or several of the library’s key functions such asacquisitions, serials control, cataloging, circulation and the publicaccess catalog. When exploring the history of library automation, itis possible to return to past centuries when visionaries well beforethe computer age created devices to assist with their book lendingsystems. Even as far back as 1588, the invention of the French “BookWheel” allowed scholars to rotate between books by stepping on a pedalthat turned a book table. Another interesting example was the “BookIndicator”, developed by Albert Cotgreave in 1863. It housed miniaturebooks to represent books in the library’s collection. The miniaturebooks were part of a design that made it possible to determine if abook was in, out or overdue. These and many more examples of earlyingenuity in library systems exist, however, this paper will focus onthe more recent computer automation beginning in the early twentiethcentury. The Beginnings of Library Automation: 1930-1960It could be said that library automation development began in the1930’s when punch card equipment was implemented for use in librarycirculation and acquisitions. During the 30’s and early 40’s progresson computer systems was slow which is not surprising, given theDepression and World War II. In 1945, Vannevar Bush envisioned anautomated system that would store information, including books,personal records and articles. Bush(1945) wrote about a hypothetical”memex” system which he described as a mechanical library that wouldallow a user to view stored information from several different accesspoints and look at several items simultaneously. His ideas are wellknown as the basis for hypertext and mputers for their operations. Thefirst appeared at MIT, in 1957, with the development of COMIT,managing linguistic computations, natural language and the ability tosearch for a particular string of information. Librarians then movedbeyond a vision or idea for the use of computers, given thetechnology, they were able make great advances in the use of computersfor library systems. This lead to an explosion of library automationin the 60’s and 70’s. Library Automation Officially is Underway: 1960-1980The advancement of technology lead to increases in the use ofcomputers in libraries. In 1961, a significant invention by bothRobert Noyce of Intel and Jack Kirby of Texas Instruments, workingindependently, was the integrated circuit. All the components of anelectronic circuit were placed onto a single “chip” of silicon. Thisinvention of the integrated circuit and newly developed disk and tapestorage devices gave computers the speed, storage and ability neededfor on-line interactive processing and telecommunications. The new potential for computer use guided one librarian to develop anew indexing technique. HP. Luhn, in 1961, used a computer to producethe “keyword in context” or KWIC index for articles appearing inChemical Abstracts. Although keyword indexing was not new, it wasfound to be very suitable for the computer as it was inexpensive andit presented multiple access points. Through the use of Luhn’s keywordindexing, it was found that librarians had the ability to putcontrolled language index terms on the computer. By the mid-60’s, computers were being used for the production ofmachine readable catalog records by the Library of Congress. Between1965 and 1968, LOC began the MARC I project, followed quickly by MARCII. MARC was designed as way of “tagging” bibliographic records using3-digit numbers to identify fields. For example, a tag might indicate”ISBN,” while another tag indicates “publication date,” and yetanother indicates “Library of Congress subject headings” and so on. In1974, the MARC II format became the basis of a standard incorporatedby NISO (National Information Standards Organization). This was asignificant development because the standards created meant that abibliographic record could be read and transferred by the computerbetween different library systems. ARPANET, a network established by the Defense Advanced ResearchProjects Agency in 1969 brought into existence the use of e-mail,telnet and ftp. By 1980, a sub-net of ARPANET made MELVYL, theUniversity of California s on-line public access catalog, available ona national level. ARPANET, would become the prototype for othernetworks such as CSNET, BITNET, and EDUCOM. These networks have almostdisappeared with the evolution of ARPANET to NSFNET which has becomethe present day Internet. During the 1970’s the inventions of the integrated computer chipand storage devices caused the use of minicomputers and microcomputersto grow substantially. The use of commercial systems for searchingreference databases (such as DIALOG) began. BALLOTS (BibliographicalAutomation of Large Library Operations) in the late 1970’s was one ofthe first and later became the foundation for RLIN (the ResearchLibraries Information Network). BALLOTS was designed to integrateclosely with the technical processing functions of the library andcontained four main files: (1)MARC records from LOC; (2) an in-processfile containing information on items in the processing stage; (3) a

catalog data file containing an on-line record for each item; and (4)a reference file. Further, it contained a wide search retrievalcapability with the ability to search on truncated words, keywords,and LC subject headings, for example. OCLC, the On-line Computer Library Center began in 1967, chartered inthe state of Ohio. This significant project facilitated technicalprocessing in library systems when it started it’s first cooperativecataloging venture in 1970. It went on-line in 1971. Since that timeit has grown considerably, providing research and utihypermedia.In order to have automation, there must first be a computer. Thedevelopment of the computer progressed substantially from 1946 to1961, moving quickly though a succession of vacuum tubes, transistorsand finally to silicon chips. From 1946 to 1947 two significantcomputers were built. The ENIAC I (Electronic Numerical Integrator andCalculator) computer was developed by John Mauchly and J. PresperEckert at the University of Pennsylvania. It contained over 18,000vacuum tubes, weighed thirty tons and was housed in two stories of abuilding. It was intended for use during World War II but was notcompleted in time. Instead, it was used to assist the development ofthe hydrogen bomb. Another computer, EDVAC, was designed to store twoprograms at once and switch between the sets of instructions. A majorbreakthrough occurred in 1947 when Bell Laboratories replaced vacuumtubes with the invention of the transistor. The transistors decreasedthe size of the computer, and at the same time increased the speed andcapacity. The UNIVAC I (Universal Automatic Computer) became thefirst computer using transistors and was used at the U.S. Bureau ofthe Census from 1951 until 1963.Software development also was in progress during this time. Operating systems and programming languages were developed for thecomputers being built. Librarians needed text-based computerlanguages, different from the first numerical languages invented forthe number crunching “monster computers”, in order to be able to usecolities designed to provide users with the ability to accessbibliographic records, scientific and literary information whichcontinues to the present .Library Automation 1980-presentThe 70’s were the era of the dummy terminal that were used to gainaccess to mainframe on-line databases. The 80’s gave birth to a newrevolution. The size of computers decreased, at the same time,technology provided faster chips, additional RAM and greater storagecapacity. The use of microcomputers during the 1980’s expandedtremendously into the homes, schools, libraries and offices of manyAmericans. The microcomputer of the 80’s became a useful tool forlibrarians who put to them to use for everything from word processingto reference, circulation and serials.On-line Public Access Catalogs began to be used extensively the1980’s. Libraries started to set-up and purchase their own computersystems as well as connect with other established library networks. Many of these were not developed by the librarians themselves, but byvendors who supplied libraries with systems for everything fromcataloging to circulation. One such on-line catalog system is the CARL(Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries) system. Various othersoftware became available to librarians, such as spreadsheets anddatabases for help in library administration and informationdissemination.The introduction of CD-ROMs in the late 80 s has changed the waylibraries operate. CD-ROMs became available containing databases,software, and information previously only available through print,making the information more accessible. Connections to “outside”databases such as OCLC, DIALOG, and RLIN continued, however, in theearly 90’s the databases that were previously available on-line becameavailable on CD-ROM, either in parts or in their entirety. Librariescould then gain information through a variety of options.The nineties are giving rise to yet another era in libraryautomation. The use of networks for e-mail, ftp, telnet, Internet, andconnections to on-line commercial systems has grown. It is nowpossible for users to connect to the libraries from their home oroffice. The world wide web which had it’s official start date asApril of 1993 is becoming the fastest growing new provider ofinformation. It is also possible, to connect to international librarysystems and information through the Internet and with ever improvingtelecommunications. Expert systems and knowledge systems have becomeavailable in the 90 s as both software and hardware capabilities haveimproved. The technology used for the processing of information hasgrown considerably since the beginnings of the thirty ton computer. With the development of more advanced silicon computer chips, enlargedstorage space and faster, increased capacity telecommunication lines,the ability to quickly process, store, send and retrieve informationis causing the current information delivery services to flourish. BibliographyBush, V. (1945).As we may think. Atlantic Monthly. 176(1), 101-8. Duval, B.K. & Main, L. (1992). Automated Library Systems: A LibrariansGuide and Teaching Manual. London: MecklerNelson, N.M., (Ed.) (1990). Library Technology 1970-1990: Shaping theLibrary of the Future. Research Contributions from the 1990 Computersin Libraries Conference. London: Meckler. Pitkin, G.M. (Ed.) (1991). The Evolution of Library Automation:Management Issues and Future Perspectives. London: Meckler. Title:A Brief History of Library Automation: 1930-1996


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