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A Brief History Of Library Automation 19301996

A Brief History Of Library Automation: 1930-1996 Essay, Research Paper An automated library is one where a computer system is used to manage one or several of the library’s key functions such as

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

An automated library is one where a computer system is used to

manage one or several of the library’s key functions such as

acquisitions, serials control, cataloging, circulation and the public

access catalog. When exploring the history of library automation, it

is possible to return to past centuries when visionaries well before

the computer age created devices to assist with their book lending

systems. Even as far back as 1588, the invention of the French “Book

Wheel” allowed scholars to rotate between books by stepping on a pedal

that turned a book table. Another interesting example was the “Book

Indicator”, developed by Albert Cotgreave in 1863. It housed miniature

books to represent books in the library’s collection. The miniature

books were part of a design that made it possible to determine if a

book was in, out or overdue. These and many more examples of early

ingenuity in library systems exist, however, this paper will focus on

the more recent computer automation beginning in the early twentieth

century.

The Beginnings of Library Automation: 1930-1960

It could be said that library automation development began in the

1930’s when punch card equipment was implemented for use in library

circulation and acquisitions. During the 30’s and early 40’s progress

on computer systems was slow which is not surprising, given the

Depression and World War II. In 1945, Vannevar Bush envisioned an

automated 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 would

allow a user to view stored information from several different access

points and look at several items simultaneously. His ideas are well

known as the basis for hypertext and mputers for their operations. The

first appeared at MIT, in 1957, with the development of COMIT,

managing linguistic computations, natural language and the ability to

search for a particular string of information. Librarians then moved

beyond a vision or idea for the use of computers, given the

technology, they were able make great advances in the use of computers

for library systems. This lead to an explosion of library automation

in the 60’s and 70’s.

Library Automation Officially is Underway: 1960-1980

The advancement of technology lead to increases in the use of

computers in libraries. In 1961, a significant invention by both

Robert Noyce of Intel and Jack Kirby of Texas Instruments, working

independently, was the integrated circuit. All the components of an

electronic circuit were placed onto a single “chip” of silicon. This

invention of the integrated circuit and newly developed disk and tape

storage devices gave computers the speed, storage and ability needed

for on-line interactive processing and telecommunications.

The new potential for computer use guided one librarian to develop a

new indexing technique. HP. Luhn, in 1961, used a computer to produce

the “keyword in context” or KWIC index for articles appearing in

Chemical Abstracts. Although keyword indexing was not new, it was

found to be very suitable for the computer as it was inexpensive and

it presented multiple access points. Through the use of Luhn’s keyword

indexing, it was found that librarians had the ability to put

controlled language index terms on the computer.

By the mid-60’s, computers were being used for the production of

machine readable catalog records by the Library of Congress. Between

1965 and 1968, LOC began the MARC I project, followed quickly by MARC

II. MARC was designed as way of “tagging” bibliographic records using

3-digit numbers to identify fields. For example, a tag might indicate

“ISBN,” while another tag indicates “publication date,” and yet

another indicates “Library of Congress subject headings” and so on. In

1974, the MARC II format became the basis of a standard incorporated

by NISO (National Information Standards Organization). This was a

significant development because the standards created meant that a

bibliographic record could be read and transferred by the computer

between different library systems.

ARPANET, a network established by the Defense Advanced Research

Projects Agency in 1969 brought into existence the use of e-mail,

telnet and ftp. By 1980, a sub-net of ARPANET made MELVYL, the

University of California s on-line public access catalog, available on

a national level. ARPANET, would become the prototype for other

networks such as CSNET, BITNET, and EDUCOM. These networks have almost

disappeared with the evolution of ARPANET to NSFNET which has become

the present day Internet.

During the 1970’s the inventions of the integrated computer chip

and storage devices caused the use of minicomputers and microcomputers

to grow substantially. The use of commercial systems for searching

reference databases (such as DIALOG) began. BALLOTS (Bibliographical

Automation of Large Library Operations) in the late 1970’s was one of

the first and later became the foundation for RLIN (the Research

Libraries Information Network). BALLOTS was designed to integrate

closely with the technical processing functions of the library and

contained four main files: (1)MARC records from LOC; (2) an in-process

file 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 retrieval

capability 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 in

the state of Ohio. This significant project facilitated technical

processing in library systems when it started it’s first cooperative

cataloging venture in 1970. It went on-line in 1971. Since that time

it has grown considerably, providing research and utihypermedia.

In order to have automation, there must first be a computer. The

development of the computer progressed substantially from 1946 to

1961, moving quickly though a succession of vacuum tubes, transistors

and finally to silicon chips. From 1946 to 1947 two significant

computers were built. The ENIAC I (Electronic Numerical Integrator and

Calculator) computer was developed by John Mauchly and J. Presper

Eckert at the University of Pennsylvania. It contained over 18,000

vacuum tubes, weighed thirty tons and was housed in two stories of a

building. It was intended for use during World War II but was not

completed in time. Instead, it was used to assist the development of

the hydrogen bomb. Another computer, EDVAC, was designed to store two

programs at once and switch between the sets of instructions. A major

breakthrough occurred in 1947 when Bell Laboratories replaced vacuum

tubes with the invention of the transistor. The transistors decreased

the size of the computer, and at the same time increased the speed and

capacity. The UNIVAC I (Universal Automatic Computer) became the

first computer using transistors and was used at the U.S. Bureau of

the Census from 1951 until 1963.

Software development also was in progress during this time.

Operating systems and programming languages were developed for the

computers being built. Librarians needed text-based computer

languages, different from the first numerical languages invented for

the number crunching “monster computers”, in order to be able to use

colities designed to provide users with the ability to access

bibliographic records, scientific and literary information which

continues to the present .

Library Automation 1980-present

The 70’s were the era of the dummy terminal that were used to gain

access to mainframe on-line databases. The 80’s gave birth to a new

revolution. The size of computers decreased, at the same time,

technology provided faster chips, additional RAM and greater storage

capacity. The use of microcomputers during the 1980’s expanded

tremendously into the homes, schools, libraries and offices of many

Americans. The microcomputer of the 80’s became a useful tool for

librarians who put to them to use for everything from word processing

to reference, circulation and serials.

On-line Public Access Catalogs began to be used extensively the

1980’s. Libraries started to set-up and purchase their own computer

systems as well as connect with other established library networks.

Many of these were not developed by the librarians themselves, but by

vendors who supplied libraries with systems for everything from

cataloging to circulation. One such on-line catalog system is the CARL

(Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries) system. Various other

software became available to librarians, such as spreadsheets and

databases for help in library administration and information

dissemination.

The introduction of CD-ROMs in the late 80 s has changed the way

libraries 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 the

early 90’s the databases that were previously available on-line became

available on CD-ROM, either in parts or in their entirety. Libraries

could then gain information through a variety of options.

The nineties are giving rise to yet another era in library

automation. The use of networks for e-mail, ftp, telnet, Internet, and

connections to on-line commercial systems has grown. It is now

possible for users to connect to the libraries from their home or

office. The world wide web which had it’s official start date as

April of 1993 is becoming the fastest growing new provider of

information. It is also possible, to connect to international library

systems and information through the Internet and with ever improving

telecommunications. Expert systems and knowledge systems have become

available in the 90 s as both software and hardware capabilities have

improved. The technology used for the processing of information has

grown considerably since the beginnings of the thirty ton computer.

With the development of more advanced silicon computer chips, enlarged

storage space and faster, increased capacity telecommunication lines,

the ability to quickly process, store, send and retrieve information

is causing the current information delivery services to flourish.

Bibliography

Bush, V. (1945).As we may think. Atlantic Monthly. 176(1), 101-8.

Duval, B.K. & Main, L. (1992). Automated Library Systems: A Librarians

Guide and Teaching Manual. London: Meckler

Nelson, N.M., (Ed.) (1990). Library Technology 1970-1990: Shaping the

Library of the Future. Research Contributions from the 1990 Computers

in Libraries Conference. London: Meckler.

Pitkin, G.M. (Ed.) (1991). The Evolution of Library Automation:

Management Issues and Future Perspectives. London: Meckler.

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A Brief History of Library Automation: 1930-1996

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