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Brief History of Library Automation: 1930-1996 An automated library is one where a computer system is used to manageone or several of the library's key functions such as acquisitions, serialscontrol, cataloging, circulation and the public access catalog. When exploringthe history of library automation, it is possible to return to past centurieswhen visionaries well before the computer age created devices to assist withtheir book lending systems. Even as far back as 1588, the invention of theFrench 'Book Wheel' allowed scholars to rotate between books by stepping on apedal that turned a book table. Another interesting example was the 'BookIndicator', developed by Albert Cotgreave in 1863. It housed miniature books torepresent books in the library's collection.
The miniature books were part of adesign 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 beginningin the early twentieth century.The Beginnings of Library Automation: 1930-1960 It could be said that library automation development began in the 1930'swhen punch card equipment was implemented for use in library circulation andacquisitions. During the 30's and early 40's progress on computer systems wasslow 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 ahypothetical 'memex' system which he described as a mechanical library thatwould allow a user to view stored information from several different accesspoints and look at several items simultaneously. His ideas are well known as thebasis 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 ofinformation. Librarians then moved beyond a vision or idea for the use ofcomputers, given the technology, they were able make great advances in the useof computers for library systems.
This lead to an explosion of libraryautomation 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 computersin libraries. In 1961, a significant invention by both Robert Noyce of Intel andJack Kirby of Texas Instruments, working independently, was the integratedcircuit. All the components of an electronic circuit were placed onto a single'chip' of silicon. This invention of the integrated circuit and newly developeddisk and tape storage devices gave computers the speed, storage and abilityneeded for on-line interactive processing and telecommunications. The newpotential for computer use guided one librarian to develop a new indexingtechnique. HP.
Luhn, in 1961, used a computer to produce the 'keyword incontext' or KWIC index for articles appearing in Chemical Abstracts. Althoughkeyword indexing was not new, it was found to be very suitable for the computeras it was inexpensive and it presented multiple access points. Through the useof Luhn's keyword indexing, 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 of machinereadable catalog records by the Library of Congress. Between 1965 and 1968, LOCbegan the MARC I project, followed quickly by MARC II. MARC was designed as wayof 'tagging' bibliographic records using 3-digit numbers to identify fields. Forexample, a tag might indicate 'ISBN,' while another tag indicates 'publicationdate,' and yet another indicates 'Library of Congress subject headings' and soon.
In 1974, the MARC II format became the basis of a standard incorporated byNISO (National Information Standards Organization). This was a significantdevelopment because the standards created meant that a bibliographic recordcould be read and transferred by the computer between 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, the University of California'is on-line public access catalog, available on a national level. ARPANET, would becomethe prototype for other networks such as CSNET, BITNET, and EDUCOM. Thesenetworks have almost disappeared with the evolution of ARPANET to NSFNET whichhas become the present day Internet. During the 1970's the inventions of the integrated computer chip andstorage devices caused the use of minicomputers and microcomputers to growsubstantially. The use of commercial systems for searching reference databases(such as DIALOG) began.
BALLOTS (Bibliographical Automation of Large LibraryOperations) in the late 1970's was one of the first and later became thefoundation for RLIN (the Research Libraries Information Network). BALLOTS wasdesigned to integrate closely with the technical processing functions of thelibrary and contained four main files: (1)MARC records from LOC; (2) an in-process file containing information on items in the processing stage; (3) acatalog data file containing an on-line record for each item; and (4) areference file. Further, it contained a wide search retrieval capability withthe ability to search on truncated words, keywords, and LC subject headings, forexample. OCLC, the On-line Computer Library Center began in 1967, chartered inthe state of Ohio. This significant project facilitated technical processing inlibrary systems when it started it's first cooperative cataloging venture in1970.
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. Thedevelopment of the computer progressed substantially from 1946 to 1961, movingquickly though a succession of vacuum tubes, transistors and finally to siliconchips. From 1946 to 1947 two significant computers were built. The ENIAC I(Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator) computer was developed by JohnMauchly and J. Presper Eckert at the University of Pennsylvania. It containedover 18,000 vacuum tubes, weighed thirty tons and was housed in two stories of abuilding.
It was intended for use during World War II but was not completed intime. Instead, it was used to assist the development of the hydrogen bomb.Another computer, EDVAC, was designed to store two programs at once and switchbetween the sets of instructions. A major breakthrough occurred in 1947 whenBell Laboratories replaced vacuum tubes with the invention of the transistor.The transistors decreased the size of the computer, and at the same timeincreased the speed and capacity. The UNIVAC I (Universal Automatic Computer)became the first 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. Operatingsystems and programming languages were developed for the computers being built.Librarians needed text-based computer languages, different from the firstnumerical languages invented for the number crunching 'monster computers', inorder to be able to use colities designed to provide users with the ability toaccess bibliographic records, scientific and literary information whichcontinues to the present .Library Automation 1980-present The 70's were the era of the dummy terminal thatwere used to gain access to mainframe on-line databases. The 80's gave birth toa new revolution. The size of computers decreased, at the same time, technologyprovided faster chips, additional RAM and greater storage capacity. The use ofmicrocomputers during the 1980's expanded tremendously into the homes, schools,libraries and offices of many Americans. The microcomputer of the 80's became auseful tool for librarians who put to them to use for everything from wordprocessing to reference, circulation and serials. On-line Public AccessCatalogs began to be used extensively the 1980's.
Libraries started to set-upand purchase their own computer systems as well as connect with otherestablished library networks. Many of these were not developed by the librariansthemselves, but by vendors who supplied libraries with systems for everythingfrom cataloging to circulation. One such on-line catalog system is the CARL(Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries) system. Various other software becameavailable to librarians, such as spreadsheets and databases for help in libraryadministration and information dissemination. The introduction of CD-ROMs in the late 80'is has changed the waylibraries operate. CD-ROMs became available containing databases, software, andinformation previously only available through print, making the information moreaccessible.
Connections to 'outside' databases such as OCLC, DIALOG, and RLINcontinued, however, in the early 90's the databases that were previouslyavailable on-line became available on CD-ROM, either in parts or in theirentirety. 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 tothe libraries from their home or office. The world wide web which had it'sofficial start date as April of 1993 is becoming the fastest growing newprovider of information. It is also possible, to connect to internationallibrary systems and information through the Internet and with ever improvingtelecommunications.
Expert systems and knowledge systems have become availablein the 90'is as both software and hardware capabilities have improved. Thetechnology used for the processing of information has grown considerably sincethe beginnings of the thirty ton computer. With the development of more advancedsilicon computer chips, enlarged storage space and faster, increased capacitytelecommunication lines, the ability to quickly process, store, send andretrieve information is causing the current information delivery services toflourish.BibliographyBush, V. (1945).As we may think. Atlantic Monthly. 176(1), 101-8.Duval, B.K. & Main, L.
(1992). Automated Library Systems: A Librarians Guide andTeaching Manual. London: MecklerNelson, N.M., (Ed.) (1990). Library Technology 1970-1990: Shaping the Library ofthe Future. Research Contributions from the 1990 Computers in LibrariesConference.
London: Meckler.Pitkin, G.M. (Ed.) (1991). The Evolution of Library Automation: ManagementIssues and Future Perspectives. London: Meckler.
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