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Roy Tennant: The Rise of Bad Infographics

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-22 14:38

Given the ubiquity of infographics on the web today (according to one account they have increased 1200% in three years), you can be forgiven for thinking that they are a new phenomenon. They aren’t. Infographics have actually been around for quite some time, as Edward Tufte pointed out with his popularization of one of the best infographics of all time (see pic and link): Charles Joseph Minard’s portrayal of the losses suffered by Napoleon’s army in the Russian campaign of 1812.

Go ahead and take a look. Study it. I’ll be here when you get back. 

Do you see what he did? He took raw data and made it communicate visually. Let me re-iterate this, as this lesson is too often lost in present day “infographics”. You receive information immediately, without reading it. The minute you understand that the width of the line equals the relative number of troops, you are stunned. The depth of the tragedy has been communicated — if not fully, at least by impression.

The Menard infographic also combines several different planes of information, from troop strength, to temperature, to distance. It is, frankly, brilliant. I’m not suggesting that every library infographic needs to be brilliant, but nearly all of them can be smarter than they are. Either that, or give up the attempt. Seriously.

It’s sad, but many contemporary infographics are hardly anything more than numbers and clip art — often with only a tenuous connection between them. We really must do better.

Minard’s early infographic ably demonstrates the best qualities of an infographic presentation:

  • Information is conveyed at a glance. If you must read a lot of text to get the drift of the message, then you are failing.
  • The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Menard deftly uses all of the dimensions of a piece of paper to convey distance, temperature, and troop strength all in one graphic. The combination puts across a message that any single element could not.
  • There are layers of information that are well integrated in the whole. An initial impression can be conveyed, but your graphic should also reveal more information under scrutiny.

Unfortunately, library infographics rarely, if ever, even loosely achieve these aims. Humor me, and do a Google Images search on “library infographics” and see what you get. Mostly they are simply numbers that are “illustrated” by some icon or image. They really aren’t infographics of the variety that Tufte champions. They are, unfortunately, mostly pale shadows of what is possible.

So let’s review some of the signs of a bad infographic:

  • Numbers are the most prominent thing you see. If you look at an infographic and it’s only numbers that leap out at you, stop wasting your time. Move on.
  • The numbers are not related at all. Many library infographics combine numbers that have no relation to each other. Who wants to puzzle out the significance of the number “30” next to the number “300,000”? Not me, nor anyone else.
  • The images are only loosely connected to the numbers. Stop putting an icon of a book next to the number of book checkouts. Just stop.

In the end, it’s clear that libraries really need professional help. Don’t think that you can simply take numbers, add an icon, and create a meaningful infographic. You can’t. It’s stupid. Just stop. If we can’t do this right, then we shouldn’t be doing it at all.

Roy Tennant: The Rise of Bad Infographics

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-22 14:38

Given the ubiquity of infographics on the web today (according to one account they have increased 1200% in three years), you can be forgiven for thinking that they are a new phenomenon. They aren’t. Infographics have actually been around for quite some time, as Edward Tufte pointed out with his popularization of one of the best infographics of all time (see pic and link): Charles Joseph Minard’s portrayal of the losses suffered by Napoleon’s army in the Russian campaign of 1812.

Go ahead and take a look. Study it. I’ll be here when you get back. 

Do you see what he did? He took raw data and made it communicate visually. Let me re-iterate this, as this lesson is too often lost in present day “infographics”. You receive information immediately, without reading it. The minute you understand that the width of the line equals the relative number of troops, you are stunned. The depth of the tragedy has been communicated — if not fully, at least by impression.

The Menard infographic also combines several different planes of information, from troop strength, to temperature, to distance. It is, frankly, brilliant. I’m not suggesting that every library infographic needs to be brilliant, but nearly all of them can be smarter than they are. Either that, or give up the attempt. Seriously.

It’s sad, but many contemporary infographics are hardly anything more than numbers and clip art — often with only a tenuous connection between them. We really must do better.

Minard’s early infographic ably demonstrates the best qualities of an infographic presentation:

  • Information is conveyed at a glance. If you must read a lot of text to get the drift of the message, then you are failing.
  • The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Menard deftly uses all of the dimensions of a piece of paper to convey distance, temperature, and troop strength all in one graphic. The combination puts across a message that any single element could not.
  • There are layers of information that are well integrated in the whole. An initial impression can be conveyed, but your graphic should also reveal more information under scrutiny.

Unfortunately, library infographics rarely, if ever, even loosely achieve these aims. Humor me, and do a Google Images search on “library infographics” and see what you get. Mostly they are simply numbers that are “illustrated” by some icon or image. They really aren’t infographics of the variety that Tufte champions. They are, unfortunately, mostly pale shadows of what is possible.

So let’s review some of the signs of a bad infographic:

  • Numbers are the most prominent thing you see. If you look at an infographic and it’s only numbers that leap out at you, stop wasting your time. Move on.
  • The numbers are not related at all. Many library infographics combine numbers that have no relation to each other. Who wants to puzzle out the significance of the number “30” next to the number “300,000”? Not me, nor anyone else.
  • The images are only loosely connected to the numbers. Stop putting an icon of a book next to the number of book checkouts. Just stop.

In the end, it’s clear that libraries really need professional help. Don’t think that you can simply take numbers, add an icon, and create a meaningful infographic. You can’t. It’s stupid. Just stop. If we can’t do this right, then we shouldn’t be doing it at all.

Roy Tennant: The Rise of Bad Infographics

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-22 14:38

Given the ubiquity of infographics on the web today (according to one account they have increased 1200% in three years), you can be forgiven for thinking that they are a new phenomenon. They aren’t. Infographics have actually been around for quite some time, as Edward Tufte pointed out with his popularization of one of the best infographics of all time (see pic and link): Charles Joseph Minard’s portrayal of the losses suffered by Napoleon’s army in the Russian campaign of 1812.

Go ahead and take a look. Study it. I’ll be here when you get back. 

Do you see what he did? He took raw data and made it communicate visually. Let me re-iterate this, as this lesson is too often lost in present day “infographics”. You receive information immediately, without reading it. The minute you understand that the width of the line equals the relative number of troops, you are stunned. The depth of the tragedy has been communicated — if not fully, at least by impression.

The Menard infographic also combines several different planes of information, from troop strength, to temperature, to distance. It is, frankly, brilliant. I’m not suggesting that every library infographic needs to be brilliant, but nearly all of them can be smarter than they are. Either that, or give up the attempt. Seriously.

It’s sad, but many contemporary infographics are hardly anything more than numbers and clip art — often with only a tenuous connection between them. We really must do better.

Minard’s early infographic ably demonstrates the best qualities of an infographic presentation:

  • Information is conveyed at a glance. If you must read a lot of text to get the drift of the message, then you are failing.
  • The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Menard deftly uses all of the dimensions of a piece of paper to convey distance, temperature, and troop strength all in one graphic. The combination puts across a message that any single element could not.
  • There are layers of information that are well integrated in the whole. An initial impression can be conveyed, but your graphic should also reveal more information under scrutiny.

Unfortunately, library infographics rarely, if ever, even loosely achieve these aims. Humor me, and do a Google Images search on “library infographics” and see what you get. Mostly they are simply numbers that are “illustrated” by some icon or image. They really aren’t infographics of the variety that Tufte champions. They are, unfortunately, mostly pale shadows of what is possible.

So let’s review some of the signs of a bad infographic:

  • Numbers are the most prominent thing you see. If you look at an infographic and it’s only numbers that leap out at you, stop wasting your time. Move on.
  • The numbers are not related at all. Many library infographics combine numbers that have no relation to each other. Who wants to puzzle out the significance of the number “30” next to the number “300,000”? Not me, nor anyone else.
  • The images are only loosely connected to the numbers. Stop putting an icon of a book next to the number of book checkouts. Just stop.

In the end, it’s clear that libraries really need professional help. Don’t think that you can simply take numbers, add an icon, and create a meaningful infographic. You can’t. It’s stupid. Just stop. If we can’t do this right, then we shouldn’t be doing it at all.

DPLA: DPLA and FamilySearch Partner to Expand Access to Digitized Historical Books Online

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-22 12:00

BOSTON/SALT LAKE CITY— In concert with the American Library Association national conference in Orlando, Florida, this week, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and FamilySearch International, the largest genealogy organization in the world, have signed an agreement that will expand
access to FamilySearch.org’s growing free digital historical book collection to DPLA’s broad audience of users including genealogists, researchers, family historians, students, and more.

Family history/genealogy continues to be a popular and growing hobby. And FamilySearch is a leader in the use of technology to digitally preserve the world’s historic records and books of genealogical relevance for easy search and access online. With this new partnership, DPLA will incorporate metadata from FamilySearch.org’s online digital book collection that will make more than 200,000 family history books discoverable through DPLA’s search portal later this year. From DPLA, users will be able to access the free, fully viewable digital books on FamilySearch.org.  

The digitized historical book collection at FamilySearch.org includes genealogy and family history publications from the archives of some of the most important family history libraries in the world. The collection includes family histories, county and local histories, genealogy magazines and how-to books, gazetteers, and medieval histories and pedigrees.  Tens of thousands of new publications are added yearly.

“We’re excited to see information about FamilySearch’s vast holdings more broadly circulated to those trained to collect, catalog, and distribute useful information. Joint initiatives like this with DPLA help us to further expand access to the rich historic records hidden in libraries and archives worldwide to more curious online patrons,” said David Rencher, FamilySearch’s Chief Genealogy Officer.

Dan Cohen, Executive Director of DPLA, sees the addition of FamilySearch’s digital book collection as part of DPLA’s ongoing mission to be an essential site for family history researchers: “At DPLA, we aspire to collect and share cultural heritage materials that represent individuals, families, and communities from all walks of life across the country, past and present. The FamilySearch collection and our continued engagement with genealogists and family researchers is critical to help bring the stories represented in these treasured resources to life in powerful and exciting ways.”

FamilySearch is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to the discovery and preservation of personal and family histories and stories, introducing individuals to their ancestors through the widespread access to records, and collaborating with others who share this vision. Within DPLA, FamilySearch’s book collection will be discoverable alongside over 13 million cultural heritage materials contributed by DPLA’s growing network of over 2,000 libraries, archives, and museums across the country, opening up all new possibilities for discovery for users and researchers worldwide.  

Find more about FamilySearch or search its resources online at FamilySearch.org. Learn more about Digital Public Library of America at https://dp.la.  

About FamilySearch

FamilySearch is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch and its predecessors have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources for free at FamilySearch.org or through more than 4,921 family history centers in 129 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

About the Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. Since launching in April 2013, it has aggregated more than 13 million items from 2,000 institutions. The DPLA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit.

Media Contacts

DPLA: info@dp.la
FamilySearch: news@familysearch.org

DPLA: DPLA and FamilySearch Partner to Expand Access to Digitized Historical Books Online

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-22 12:00

BOSTON/SALT LAKE CITY— In concert with the American Library Association national conference in Orlando, Florida, this week, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and FamilySearch International, the largest genealogy organization in the world, have signed an agreement that will expand
access to FamilySearch.org’s growing free digital historical book collection to DPLA’s broad audience of users including genealogists, researchers, family historians, students, and more.

Family history/genealogy continues to be a popular and growing hobby. And FamilySearch is a leader in the use of technology to digitally preserve the world’s historic records and books of genealogical relevance for easy search and access online. With this new partnership, DPLA will incorporate metadata from FamilySearch.org’s online digital book collection that will make more than 200,000 family history books discoverable through DPLA’s search portal later this year. From DPLA, users will be able to access the free, fully viewable digital books on FamilySearch.org.  

The digitized historical book collection at FamilySearch.org includes genealogy and family history publications from the archives of some of the most important family history libraries in the world. The collection includes family histories, county and local histories, genealogy magazines and how-to books, gazetteers, and medieval histories and pedigrees.  Tens of thousands of new publications are added yearly.

“We’re excited to see information about FamilySearch’s vast holdings more broadly circulated to those trained to collect, catalog, and distribute useful information. Joint initiatives like this with DPLA help us to further expand access to the rich historic records hidden in libraries and archives worldwide to more curious online patrons,” said David Rencher, FamilySearch’s Chief Genealogy Officer.

Dan Cohen, Executive Director of DPLA, sees the addition of FamilySearch’s digital book collection as part of DPLA’s ongoing mission to be an essential site for family history researchers: “At DPLA, we aspire to collect and share cultural heritage materials that represent individuals, families, and communities from all walks of life across the country, past and present. The FamilySearch collection and our continued engagement with genealogists and family researchers is critical to help bring the stories represented in these treasured resources to life in powerful and exciting ways.”

FamilySearch is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to the discovery and preservation of personal and family histories and stories, introducing individuals to their ancestors through the widespread access to records, and collaborating with others who share this vision. Within DPLA, FamilySearch’s book collection will be discoverable alongside over 13 million cultural heritage materials contributed by DPLA’s growing network of over 2,000 libraries, archives, and museums across the country, opening up all new possibilities for discovery for users and researchers worldwide.  

Find more about FamilySearch or search its resources online at FamilySearch.org. Learn more about Digital Public Library of America at https://dp.la.  

About FamilySearch

FamilySearch is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch and its predecessors have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources for free at FamilySearch.org or through more than 4,921 family history centers in 129 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

About the Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. Since launching in April 2013, it has aggregated more than 13 million items from 2,000 institutions. The DPLA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit.

Media Contacts

DPLA: info@dp.la
FamilySearch: news@familysearch.org

DPLA: DPLA and FamilySearch Partner to Expand Access to Digitized Historical Books Online

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-22 12:00

BOSTON/SALT LAKE CITY— In concert with the American Library Association national conference in Orlando, Florida, this week, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and FamilySearch International, the largest genealogy organization in the world, have signed an agreement that will expand
access to FamilySearch.org’s growing free digital historical book collection to DPLA’s broad audience of users including genealogists, researchers, family historians, students, and more.

Family history/genealogy continues to be a popular and growing hobby. And FamilySearch is a leader in the use of technology to digitally preserve the world’s historic records and books of genealogical relevance for easy search and access online. With this new partnership, DPLA will incorporate metadata from FamilySearch.org’s online digital book collection that will make more than 200,000 family history books discoverable through DPLA’s search portal later this year. From DPLA, users will be able to access the free, fully viewable digital books on FamilySearch.org.  

The digitized historical book collection at FamilySearch.org includes genealogy and family history publications from the archives of some of the most important family history libraries in the world. The collection includes family histories, county and local histories, genealogy magazines and how-to books, gazetteers, and medieval histories and pedigrees.  Tens of thousands of new publications are added yearly.

“We’re excited to see information about FamilySearch’s vast holdings more broadly circulated to those trained to collect, catalog, and distribute useful information. Joint initiatives like this with DPLA help us to further expand access to the rich historic records hidden in libraries and archives worldwide to more curious online patrons,” said David Rencher, FamilySearch’s Chief Genealogy Officer.

Dan Cohen, Executive Director of DPLA, sees the addition of FamilySearch’s digital book collection as part of DPLA’s ongoing mission to be an essential site for family history researchers: “At DPLA, we aspire to collect and share cultural heritage materials that represent individuals, families, and communities from all walks of life across the country, past and present. The FamilySearch collection and our continued engagement with genealogists and family researchers is critical to help bring the stories represented in these treasured resources to life in powerful and exciting ways.”

FamilySearch is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to the discovery and preservation of personal and family histories and stories, introducing individuals to their ancestors through the widespread access to records, and collaborating with others who share this vision. Within DPLA, FamilySearch’s book collection will be discoverable alongside over 13 million cultural heritage materials contributed by DPLA’s growing network of over 2,000 libraries, archives, and museums across the country, opening up all new possibilities for discovery for users and researchers worldwide.  

Find more about FamilySearch or search its resources online at FamilySearch.org. Learn more about Digital Public Library of America at https://dp.la.  

About FamilySearch

FamilySearch is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch and its predecessors have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources for free at FamilySearch.org or through more than 4,921 family history centers in 129 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

About the Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. Since launching in April 2013, it has aggregated more than 13 million items from 2,000 institutions. The DPLA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit.

Media Contacts

DPLA: info@dp.la
FamilySearch: news@familysearch.org

Hydra Project: Lafayette College becomes Hydra’s 100000th Partner

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-22 08:43

We are delighted to announce that Lafayette College has become Hydra’s 100000th formal Partner.  But only if you count in binary – otherwise, they’re our 32nd!

Although Lafayette is a “small liberal arts school” (their words), they have been involved with digital repository development for almost a decade and with Fedora since 2013.  They write: “We have now spent over two years working with Hydra, getting to know the community and learning the Hydra way.  We are firmly committed to this trajectory and wish now to become more involved, both technically and through project governance.  We believe that a strengthened commitment would be of mutual benefit and, moreover, would serve as a compelling example for other liberal arts colleges that we are seeking to interest in shared Open Source development.”

Welcome Lafayette!  We look forward to working with you.

Hydra Project: Lafayette College becomes Hydra’s 100000th Partner

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-22 08:43

We are delighted to announce that Lafayette College has become Hydra’s 100000th formal Partner.  But only if you count in binary – otherwise, they’re our 32nd!

Although Lafayette is a “small liberal arts school” (their words), they have been involved with digital repository development for almost a decade and with Fedora since 2013.  They write: “We have now spent over two years working with Hydra, getting to know the community and learning the Hydra way.  We are firmly committed to this trajectory and wish now to become more involved, both technically and through project governance.  We believe that a strengthened commitment would be of mutual benefit and, moreover, would serve as a compelling example for other liberal arts colleges that we are seeking to interest in shared Open Source development.”

Welcome Lafayette!  We look forward to working with you.

Hydra Project: Lafayette College becomes Hydra’s 100000th Partner

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-22 08:43

We are delighted to announce that Lafayette College has become Hydra’s 100000th formal Partner.  But only if you count in binary – otherwise, they’re our 32nd!

Although Lafayette is a “small liberal arts school” (their words), they have been involved with digital repository development for almost a decade and with Fedora since 2013.  They write: “We have now spent over two years working with Hydra, getting to know the community and learning the Hydra way.  We are firmly committed to this trajectory and wish now to become more involved, both technically and through project governance.  We believe that a strengthened commitment would be of mutual benefit and, moreover, would serve as a compelling example for other liberal arts colleges that we are seeking to interest in shared Open Source development.”

Welcome Lafayette!  We look forward to working with you.

Library Tech Talk (U of Michigan): New Computer refresh cycle tool for the Library

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-22 00:00

The University of Michigan Library replaces roughly 1/4 of our computers every year. It is a long and complicated process when one considers the number of library staff and the number of computers (both in office and public areas where staff machines are used) involved. This year we use a locally developed tool to streamline the process.

Library Tech Talk (U of Michigan): New Computer refresh cycle tool for the Library

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-22 00:00

The University of Michigan Library replaces roughly 1/4 of our computers every year. It is a long and complicated process when one considers the number of library staff and the number of computers (both in office and public areas where staff machines are used) involved. This year we use a locally developed tool to streamline the process.

Library Tech Talk (U of Michigan): New Computer refresh cycle tool for the Library

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-22 00:00

The University of Michigan Library replaces roughly 1/4 of our computers every year. It is a long and complicated process when one considers the number of library staff and the number of computers (both in office and public areas where staff machines are used) involved. This year we use a locally developed tool to streamline the process.

Library Tech Talk (U of Michigan): New Computer refresh cycle tool for the Library

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-22 00:00

The University of Michigan Library replaces roughly 1/4 of our computers every year. It is a long and complicated process when one considers the number of library staff and the number of computers (both in office and public areas where staff machines are used) involved. This year we use a locally developed tool to streamline the process.

DuraSpace News: VIVO Updates for June 5–Be a VIVO Member, Showcase Your Scholarship

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-22 00:00

From Mike Conlon, VIVO project director

Showcase the scholarship at your institution!  This week, the VIVO membership drive began in earnest with an email to all VIVO community members.  I hope you received the email and are considering how your institution might financially support VIVO:

DuraSpace News: VIVO Updates for June 5–Be a VIVO Member, Showcase Your Scholarship

planet code4lib - Wed, 2016-06-22 00:00

From Mike Conlon, VIVO project director

Showcase the scholarship at your institution!  This week, the VIVO membership drive began in earnest with an email to all VIVO community members.  I hope you received the email and are considering how your institution might financially support VIVO:

Karen Coyle: Catalog and Context, Part I

planet code4lib - Tue, 2016-06-21 18:51
This multi-part post is based on a talk I gave in June, 2016 at ELAG in Copenhagen.

Imagine that you do a search in your GPS system and are given the exact point of the address, but nothing more.

Without some context showing where on the planet the point exists, having the exact location, while accurate, is not useful.



In essence, this is what we provide to users of our catalogs. They do a search and we reply with bibliographic items that meet the letter of that search, but with no context about where those items fit into any knowledge map.

Because we present the catalog as a retrieval tool for unrelated items, users have come to see the library catalog as nothing more than a tool for known item searching. They do not see it as a place to explore topics or to find related works. The catalog wasn't always just a known item finding tool, however. To understand how it came to be one, we need a short visit to Catalogs Past.

Catalogs Past
We can't really compare the library catalog of today to the early book catalogs, since the problem that they had to solve was quite different to what we have today. However, those catalogs can show us what a library catalog was originally meant to be.

A book catalog was a compendium of entry points, mainly authors but in some cases also titles and subjects. The bibliographic data was kept quite brief as every character in the catalog was a cost in terms of type-setting and page real estate. The headings dominated the catalog, and it was only through headings that a user could approach the bibliographic holdings of the library. An alphabetical author list is not much "knowledge organization", but the headings provided an ordered layer over the library's holdings, and were also the only access mechanism to them.

Some of the early card catalogs had separate cards for headings and for bibliographic data. If entries in the catalog had to be hand-written (or later typed) onto cards, the easiest thing was to slot the cards into the catalog behind the appropriate heading without adding heading data to the card itself.

Often there was only one card with a full bibliographic description, and that was the "main entry" card. All other cards were references to a point in the catalog, for example the author's name, where more information could be found.
Again, all bibliographic data was subordinate to a layer of headings that made up the catalog. We can debate how intellectually accurate or useful that heading layer was, but there is no doubt that it was the only entry to the content of the library.

The Printed Card
In 1902 the Library of Congress began printing cards that could be purchased by libraries. The idea was genius. For each item cataloged by LC a card was printed in as many copies as needed. Libraries could buy the number of catalog card "blanks" they required to create all of the entries in their catalogs. The libraries would use as many as needed of the printed cards and type (or write) the desired headings onto the top of the card. Each of these would have the full bibliographic information - an advantage for users who then would not longer need to follow "see" references from headings to the one full entry card in the catalog.


These cards introduced something else that was new: the card would have at the bottom a tracing of the headings that LC was using in its own catalog. This was a savings for the libraries as they could copy LC's practice without incurring their own catalogers' time. This card, for the first time, combined both bibliographic information and heading tracings in a single "record", with the bibliographic information on the card being an entry point to the headings.

Machine-Readable Card Printing
The MAchine Readable Cataloging (MARC) project of the Library of Congress was a major upgrade to card printing technology. By including all of the information needed for card printing in a computer-processable record, LC could take advantage of new technology to stream-line its card production process, and even move into a kind of "print on demand" model. The MARC record was designed to have all of the information needed to print the set of cards for a book; author, title, subjects, and added entries were all included in the record, as well as some additional information that could be used to generate reports such as "new acquisitions" lists.

Here again the bibliographic information and the heading information were together in a single unit, and it even followed the card printing convention of the order of the entries, with the bibliographic description at top, followed by headings. With the MARC record, it was possible to not only print sets of cards, but to actually print the headers on the cards, so that when libraries received a set they were ready to do into the catalog at their respective places.

Next, we'll look at the conversion from printed cards to catalogs using database technology.

-> Part II

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