Brief History of Library Automation: 1930-1996

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Brief History of Library Automation: 1930-1996

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...
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