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Notes on From Documentation to Information Science

date: 2013-09-12 15:43

Some additional notes on Farkas-Conn's From Documentation to Information Science 1):

Farkas-Conn makes a couple important references to early automation efforts at the Boston Public Library and the Library of Congress. She writes that:

In the 1930s a few libraries had automated some of their information work. The Boston Public Library used punched cards for analyzing acquisitions in 1934. Later, the Library of Congress had its personnel records on punched cards; by sorting cards mechanically, lists could be prepared on short notice of staff members serving in the National Guard or eligible for draft (p. 132).

The endnote for the above paragraph indicates that the material is based on an interview the author had with Luther H. Evans 2). It is unfortunate that someone at the Boston Public Library or the Library of Congress didn't publish something about these experiences at the time. (I don't think there's a record of such a publication. I could have missed something, but I did a pretty comprehensive search a while back – in both the early print indexes as well as online.) If they had, it might have inspired others to imitate their work, just as it inspired Frederick Kilgour to pick up on Ralph Parker's (Kilgour, 1987 3).

I am taking this out of context, but it's a quote worth remembering – both because it illustrates how young the field is, in its modern form:

Substantive research in librarianship had only begun two decades earlier with the foundation of the Graduate Library School at the University of Chicago (p. 136).

And there is a endnote for that sentence that points to:

W. Boyd Rayward, “Librarianship and Information Research; Together or Apart?” in The Study of Information, ed. Machlap and Mansfield, 350-51 (see n. 1).

The philosophical difference between Mortimer Taube and Calvin Mooers approaches to information retrieval seems to be incredibly important for understanding the history of information science. See pages 139-140.

This is an important note about library education in the 1950s (before graduate school in library science was common, by the way):

No formal training in documentation was being offered in the United States. English documentalists visiting the country in 1950, were surprised that library school curricula were limited to historical matters and the mechanics of library techniques with little or no attention being given “to study the process of disseminating information with a view to improving the prevailing arrangements” (p. 145).

The source cited is:

D. J. Urquhart, “American Impressions,” American Documentation 2 (Spring 1951):100-102.

The section A Journal For Documentation that begins on p. 172 provides a number of points about journals (at least with respect to American Documentation) that are important about the scientific culture and the beginnings of a new field of inquiry.

I imagine, and for good reasons, that Birger Hjörland would have been sympathetic to what D. J. Urquhart found in his mid-twentieth century visit to the U.S., regarding the classification issue:

He [Urquhart] was surprised that Americans were not familiar with some recent European developments in microfilm technology and that they were not interested in classification, which usually evoked intense discussions among European documentalists. Implied in Urquhart's report is the question whether Americans, in the midst of large-scale operations, were giving sufficient consideration to the basic philosophy of documentation issues, a question raised by Europeans in other meetings (p. 174).

I think librarians get it now (or hope so):

No formal organization existed in the postwar era for individuals responsible for information center operations or for those interested in information work. ALA and SLA did not provide suitable forums because the majority of librarians did not comprehend, or did not want to acknowledge, that the new challenges the major information centers had to face called for unorthodox solutions (p. 144).

For anyone interested in library automation, information retrieval, etc., then chapter 7, “New Winds Blowing” 4), seems to me to be an essential read, for at the very least, historical purposes.

  • categories:
    • academic libraries
    • documentation
    • lis-history
    • scholarly communication
blog/notes-on-from-documentation-to-information-science.txt · Last modified: 2017/03/06 17:16 by seanburns