Guest Lecture DU LIS 4050

Library Technologies Past, Present, & Tomorrow

Brief History of Library Technology

Quick overview of library technology prior to the 1970s.

Taking a very board definition of technology, library catalog and automation technologies began in the 19th and early 20th century with the introduction of standardized card catalogs and the development of cataloging theory as articulated by Panizzi, Dewey, Cutter, and Ranganathan.

In the history of library technology, the concept for a card catalog dates from the late 1700 in France where the back of playing cards were used in the library card catalog. Prior to that date, most catalogs were bound books usually organized by either the author's name, chronologically by the date of the subject, by title, by donor, and by the size of book. source

Harvard University, starting in the early 1800s, created a "slip catalogue" where all of the Harvard Library's titles were cut out from a printed book catalog and pasted onto library cards that were 6 1/2 by 1 1/2 inches wide all written by hand. Eventually Harvard standardized on the 2 by 3 inch size for catalog Other libraries began creating card catalogs as well but the use of these card catalogs was primarily by staff and it wasn't until the 1860s that Harvard created two card catalogs; a Public Catalog and an Official Catalog for use by the Harvard cataloging department source.

In 1877, Melvil Dewey guided the adoption of two standard sizes for library cards; the Harvard College size of 5 x 12.25 cm and the more widely used size of 7.5 x 12.25 cm. source Dewey, through the library supply company he founded the Library Bureau, offered a card catalog cabinets and special typewriters.