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Documentation in the 1930s

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The first step leading toward the organization of the ADI was Davis’s draft plan for a world bibliography of science, which he followed up in 1933 with a proposal for a Scientific Information Institute (SIT). These plans did not materialize, but they attracted funds that enabled Davis to carry out documentation projects within Science Service. Discussions of Davis’s ideas opened communication between Davis and the community of scholars, library managers, and archivists, who later joined him in forming the ADI.

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Along another path Robert Binkley and the Joint Committee were pursuing alternatives to traditional publication for the community of scholars in the humanities and social sciences. Concern about copyright restrictions was far from Davis’s mind at the time, but the committee’s battle against such a severe obstacle to scholarly communications had a direct effect on ADI projects.

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Davis, working in the front yard of the U.S. scientific establishment, witnessed the growing crisis in scientific communication. The worldwide depression was threatening the viability of scientific journals and was endangering the existence of bibliographic tools, hard-pressed to cope with the volume of scientific literature. Yet in 1930, with a strong streak of optimism, that despite the hard times was still shared by the intelligentsia of that period,1 Davis drafted a plan for “A World Bibliography of Scientific Literature.”2

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Davis recognized that with print as the medium, “it was hopeless to contemplate” a cumulative bibliography of the entire scientific literature of the world. Scientists were not using the existing bibliographies

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to the fullest extent. With the growing number of scientific periodicals, bibliographies were becoming bulkier and the abstracting journals were covering their fields incompletely, although most articles did find their way into some bibliography.

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By combining microphotography with improved scanning mechanisms for motion picture films and using coding patterns similar to those of punched cards to aid the retrieval of documents, Davis thought that a complete yet easily used bibliography could be realized. His summary, showing the advantages of microfilm over paper-based bibliographies, is reproduced in Table 1. With such a bibliography a scientist could have access to “the fundamental past research and knowledge of any problem he undertakes.”

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Scientific Information Institute (SII)

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As Davis pondered the scientists’ use of bibliographies, he soon progressed to a broader plan for centralizing all “scientific dissemination.” He came to understand that unpublished data, scientific journals, and bibliographies are interconnected. Thus, while Washington was devising radical solutions to deal with national problems, Davis drew a blueprint for a radical transformation for the control of scientific publication.

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Table 1

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Davis’s Summary Showing the Advantage of Microfilm over Paper
Present practice Proposed method
Reference to literature reaches user by Journal of abstracts Roll of film
Method of duplication Printing Photography
Chances of error In typesetting and in proofreading None
Economical number of copies per edition Not less than several hundred As few as desired
Individual selection A whole profession. A large proportion of the material does not interest the receiver As individual as desired. Bibliographies may be made up easily for one person
Ability to reissue

Almost impossible, due to printing cost

As easy as original issue, at any time
Bringing subject up to date by correlating new with old data

Very difficult, due to mechanical trouble of filing in new material

Reissue of all material on a subject, in any desired sequence, as easy as original issue. Filing done mechanically

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Visions and Realities—Documentation in the 1930s 27

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The Scientific Information Institute (SIT), described by Davis in his “Project for Publication” in 1933 and in a slightly modified version issued in 1935, remained a shining vision in his mind.3 When he started Science Service’s documentation activities he shaped them to fit into a potential SIT structure. But it was a glass palace of a model, vulnerable to cracking when critically examined.

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In his paradigm-breaking proposal, Davis calmly suggested that SIT absorb the existing scientific journals and bibliographic services, combine journal publication with compilation of bibliographies, and also undertake their dissemination. Typically for Davis, he stressed only the advantages the new organization would offer: a centralized large-scale operation covering all of science would be “a more efficient medium of publication of scientific research”; it would also provide improved bibliographic services at reduced overhead costs, eliminate duplication, “rescue projects now endangered by economic conditions,” and benefit scientific research and “scientific personnel in general.”4

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Davis thought the changes would be minimal from an author’s point of view. Authors were to send each report with a two-hundred word abstract directly to SIT. The papers would be given an “editorial reading” and, once accepted, would be typed on uniform permanent paper in standard format and assembled with graphics or illustrations. The articles would be reproduced “by some means other than printing” to make small editions economical and would be stored permanently at SIT.

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Subscribers would receive weekly or monthly specialized journals that would consist of selected author-abstracts, “reproduced by the most economical means depending upon the number of copies needed.” A physicist, for instance, could receive abstracts of all research reports in physics and order copies of any paper he wished to see for about one cent per page, which SIT then would “manufacture to order.”

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Davis declared that by combining publication and rapid dissemination, researchers finally would be able to obtain current bibliographies in any scientific field. The advantages were many. Scientists could keep abreast of all the work in their fields of interest for a fraction of the subscription costs of journals that customarily carried those articles. Only a few subscribers of a particular scientific journal were interested “in even the abbreviated details contained in any particular research report as now published“; thus SIT would eliminate “widespread waste,” Davis asserted. Microfilming the typewritten texts would eliminate expensive typesetting and reduce overall costs. Copies of papers would remain available indefinitely through SIT at no added expense to authors. Also, capable scientists engaged in

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managing and editing journals could return full-time to productive research. Thus, Davis asserted, even with the projected full coverage, timeliness, and personalized dissemination, the proposed service would still be less expensive than the combined publication cost of scientific journals and bibliographies.

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Centralization for greater efficiency had been the hallmark of the rapidly industrializing country for nearly a century. Davis now suggested similar organizing techniques to streamline distribution of quite a different commodity, scientific information.

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In his SIT proposal Davis hardly alluded to possible technical or management difficulties that might arise. Davis was part of the scientific community with its activist attitudes and the belief that scientists were rational, dedicated human beings, willing to endure personal discomforts for the greater good of science. He was an interpreter of science to the public; although he understood the concerns of the country’s scientific elite, he had experienced scientific research only vicariously. Preoccupied with the grand design, he did not consider that even scientists have strongly ingrained habits — how they use the professional literature, for instance — and would have difficulties accepting a new system that compelled them to change routine activities. Not only did he disregard the scientists’ working patterns, he was also indifferent to the symbolic importance of published papers, often the only visible product of scientific work.

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Possibly, seeing how many people were forced to adjust to harsher realities during the depression and witnessing the bold changes initiated by the government to pull the country out of bankruptcy, Davis may have viewed the implications of his radical proposal and the stress scientists might suffer by changing their traditional communication pattern in an entirely different light.

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Davis grew up with Science Service and never managed a large organization. Following a utopian model, he was undaunted by the prospect of building up a large, highly complex organization or of using untested technology for large-scale production. So certain was he that his ideas were right that he did not even consult with those who had operated large services, such as the directors of large libraries.

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Characteristically, Davis did not mention in his draft or in the SIT proposal that others had also suggested alternatives to journal publication. Neither did he refer to European activities in scientific bibliography, although he certainly would have been acquainted with the by-then-suspended International Catalogue of Scientific Literature, published before World War I and supported by the Royal Society; he would also have been familiar with the Concilium Bibliographicum in Zurich and the activities at Science Museum in

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London. Nor did he acknowledge that he was drawing on the scheme of the IIB in Brussels.

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As in 1926, when he publicized the “Plan for Film Record“ with Slosson, Davis now wrote memoranda and circulated the SIT plan widely; he later excerpted the responses in “Comments on Science Service Ideas on Scientific Publication and Bibliography.”

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He also held informal dinner meetings, usually at the Cosmos Club, to which he invited notable guests who could contribute ideas or influence key groups. The Cosmos Club of Washington was then still on Lafayette Square near the White House, close to many government offices. From the beginning, its members were the scientific elite of a much smaller and more intimate pre-World War II Washington; most of them worked “in some department of government.” They enjoyed the ambience of the club and the discussions enhanced by the writers, historians, explorers, representatives of the country’s other cultural elites. With a flourish of inverse snobbism the list noting the areas of accomplishment of club members indicates almost incidentally after some names that the individual was also a president of the United States.5

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During the First and Second World Wars so many visiting scientists were staying or dining at the club that some considered it a quasi- governmental institution where one could usually locate scientists for a quick conference. Vannevar Bush, directing the scientific research and development effort during World War II, wrote that if an informal gathering place like the Cosmos Club did not exist, “the work of the scientific group would proceed in a somewhat halting manner.” In the summer and fall of 1933, dining-room use at the club increased over 50 percent, clearly reflecting the influx of the many experts brought to Washington by the New Deal “to plan the recovery of the country.“

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Reaction to the Idea of SII

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Perhaps the strongest indication that scientific publication had reached a perilous stage is that Davis’s radical and unrealistic plan was not dismissed out-of-hand by scientists and scholars but created considerable interest. When Davis compiled excerpts of “Comments on Science Service Ideas on Scientific Publication and Bibliography” in 1935, Binkley asked at once to have copies distributed to all members of the Joint Committee.6 Others requested copies for a group of medical editors, for members of the Committee on Research Publications of one of the National Research Council’s divisions, and also for other groups.

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A sampling of the comments Davis received indicates that the best scientific editors, administrators, and librarians understood their clients well, long before systematic user studies were carried out. Some responses to Davis’s proposal were enthusiastic; others regarded the plan as utopian and raised some critical questions. Most responses included further suggestions on how to handle scientific information. Even the more severe critics urged Davis to consider the responses and revise his plan. Not one suggested abandoning the idea.

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Paul Vanderbilt, librarian of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, who was using microfilm as an intermediary in his work on the Union Catalog, considered the plan ideal.

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Binkley congratulated Davis on his masterful analysis that “does service to us in the social sciences and humanities.“ The Joint Committee was working on similar problems. Albeit the committee’s “points of emphasis“ may be different, but “we have many points in common.”

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On the other hand, abundant funds, “considerable bravery and, perhaps audacity” would be required for an individual or a small group to put a project like SIT across, in the opinion of another respondent.

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Several respondents were disturbed because Davis had ignored the “human factor.” The rationalization of the scientific publication and dissemination process Davis suggested would fundamentally alter the roles of established institutions. Too many individuals “had vested interests” in the journals they were publishing or editing and would not be ready to give them up. Human vanity was “the compelling motive for publication in the present manner of publishing, of a larger percentage of scientific papers than I should care to put down,” wrote one of the science editors: notwithstanding the benefits, authors might not want to publish their work on 16mm film instead of paper. Still another scientist observed that handling masses of filmstrips and photoprints sent by SIT would be awkward for users.

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The plan was unsatisfactory for scholars, thought H. M. Lydenberg of the New York Public Library, one of the outstanding American librarians. He pointed out that scholars needed more than abstracts for retrospective studies and must have the assurance that extensive, if not complete, runs of periodicals can be found in strategic parts of the country.

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Lydenberg alone seems to have expressed concern about the adverse effect the proposed SIT would have on the economics of publishing. Librarians would be glad to decrease their subscriptions to periodicals if they thought they would not be decreasing “the value, importance, or significance of the source material they put at the command of the investigators.“ But if research libraries discontinued

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many of their journal subscriptions, the remaining subscribers would have to be charged higher prices, which “could spell death” to the journal publishing enterprises, unless they were subsidized.

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The plan was fundamentally unsound from the users’ point of view, wrote Julian Smith, a chemist and special librarian who, for a few years, had his own company, Smith Smith Reference Service. Scientific publishing had a dual function, he wrote: one function “may be likened to shooting the target,” the second, to sowing seeds. The plan would “enormously improve the aim of the sharpshooters.” But if complete papers were sent only to those who requested them, browsing would be eliminated. Browsing may not always be effective, but it is important for “scientists mainly interested in other fields, the budding scientist who has not yet found his ultimate specialty, and that mythical figure commonly referred to as the ’intelligent layman.’ Furthermore, in Smith’s view, the “scattering” of articles in scientific publications was not necessarily as wasteful or undesirable as Davis had implied.

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Smith also expressed concern about mechanical compilation of bibliographies. In his experience, he found that it was almost impossible to eliminate the personal factor from the tasks of classification and indexing, and he doubted that machines could overcome this defect.

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Surprisingly, among the responses Davis cited, only Godfrey Dewey commented on the similarity of Davis’s proposed scheme and the concept of the Universal Bibliographic Repertory of the JIB. “Although you make no reference to their priority in this field, both your arguments and your proposals parallel their work very closely.” Dewey also stressed the importance of a classification scheme, which Davis had dauntlessly bypassed in his proposal.

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H. E. Howe, editor of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry and a trustee of Science Service, reproached Davis for not mentioning that other scientists in the United States had also advocated the use of photographic methods or that a committee of the National Research Council had discussed publishing long and short versions of scientific papers. The respondents sent along a number of recommendations for projects with their comments: ensure international coverage; make translations of Russian, Japanese, or Chinese papers available; collect manuscripts of limited interest (such as doctoral dissertations and “scientific articles of very limited appeal”) and reproduce them on microfilm; and make older literature available on microfilm.

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This sampling of responses illustrates that in the 1930s some scientists and scholars, librarians, and bibliographers had developed a major common interest: making research workers aware of the developments in their field and providing access to the publications, data, and documents they needed.

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In the early 1930s, Davis and Binkley, unbeknownst to one another, were laboring along similar lines. In 1932, Binkley submitted a proposal for publishing alternatives to the ALA. The following year he drew up an expanded proposal under the aegis of the Joint Committee. The concept for “reproduction and distribution of materials for research in small editions” that he proposed bore a remarkable resemblance to the auxiliary publication service suggested by Slosson and Davis in 1926.7 The SIT proposal was of particular interest to Binkley; although his own proposal had been endorsed by both the ACLS and the Social Science Research Council, neither agency had the funds to establish such a publishing agency.

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Copying was a key technical component of both plans. The various forms of copying then in existence made low-volume publications economically feasible, but most products were physically unappealing or unstable. Microfilm had two major drawbacks: technical problems associated with production and the need for special equipment for reading it. Binkley favored using the most economical alternative publishing method. Davis, however, only considered microfilm as a medium for auxiliary publication: using only one copying process simplified operations, and production of occasional copies on request was easier with microphotography than with other processes.

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Their mutual interest in auxiliary publication drew Binkley and Davis together at first, but soon after the ADI was organized, the differences in their approaches became a point of contention.

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As the technical difficulties of microphotography were being reduced in the 1930s, microfilm broadened access to collections all over the world. But, like a barely perceivable iceberg, the U.S. copyright laws threatened to destroy much of its benefits. According to the law, any copying was a violation; thus, if librarians adhered to the law, individuals could not obtain copies of any copyrighted materia1.8

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Scholars and scientists, unconcerned about the legal aspects of intellectual property, welcomed microfilming as a form of “optical shorthand” that saved them hours of strenuous note taking and enabled them to do better research. Even original research is based on the work of others; while both the scientific and scholarly traditions regard plagiarism, making use of others’ ideas without

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acknowledgment, as unethical, they consider making copies of others’ work a given right. To publishers and some authors uncontrolled copying was an economic threat. The copyright controversy was heating up as the growing radio, motion picture, and television industries introduced troublesome issues in enforcement of copyright. Because of the clashing points of view between publishers and librarians, discussions on copyright took on a moralistic tone, albeit the underlying issues were economic.

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The Engineering Societies library in New York had a photostat machine as early as 1912, but that posed little threat to the publishers; users had to fill out order forms for each request, and it took days to get photoprints. After World War I, librarians, concerned about their liability, objected more strongly to copying when a few determined users began carrying the new “vest-pocket” Leica cameras using 35 mm film, bought their own chemicals and paper, and developed the microfilm copies themselves.

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When Binkley became chairman of the Joint Committee, he engaged in a battle to eliminate copyright restrictions, which he viewed as a major barrier to scholarly communication.

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In 1934, the Joint Committee began negotiating with the Copyright Committee of the National Association of Book Publishers and reached an agreement with them in March 1935. The distinguished library directors representing the Joint Committee convinced the publishers of “the justice and propriety” of the librarians’ position. The publishers, however, were concerned that attempts to change the copyright law to accommodate the librarians’ proposal might result in restrictions and provisos that might “endanger, if not nullify the end” they sought. It was agreed that H. M. Lydenberg of the New York Public Library would write up what the Joint Committee considered “fair and proper” library practice for providing photographic reproductions for their readers.9 The “Gentlemen’s Agreement,” as it became known, was signed by the chairmen of the two committees, Binkley and W. W. Norton,10 and was honored by both the publishers and librarians, even though it was not legally binding. The agreement became the basis for copying practice in libraries during the next four decades and for the drafting of a new copyright law enacted in 1976.

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Binkley received much praise for the Gentlemen’s Agreement, which he never considered a satisfactory substitute for legislation. The agreement did furnish guidelines for librarians as to what constituted fair use of copying for scholarly and research purposes, but too many areas were fuzzy. Libraries were protected, but librarians, or anyone else, filling orders for photocopies risked possible lawsuits.

Binkley was eager to have the limits of fair use tested in the courts. He fully expected that major libraries, such as the Library of Congress,

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would want to find out “how far micro-copying could take the place now filled by lending.” To be ready for such a test case he approached Frederick Keppel, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Keppel then arranged for the prestigious law firm of Root, Clark, Buckner Ballantine (RCBB) to study the copyright question. Elihu Root, chairman of the corporation, was of council to the firm in the mid-1930s; after his father’s death in 1938, Elihu Root, Jr., (who then dropped the Jr. designation) became the senior partner of the firm. RCBB studied the copyright question, evaluated the possible interpretations of the law, and continued to advise the Joint Committee regarding safe practices.

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Contrary to Binkley’s expectations, it was not the librarian of Congress, but Claribel R. Barnett, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Library (USDA library), who went ahead and boldly used microfilm as a substitute for lending. Bibliofilm Service, the microfilm-based interlibrary loan service discussed in the next chapter, had already been started at the USDA library a few months before the Gentlemen’s Agreement was signed. The operation was taken over by Science Service the following year and by the ADI in 1937; between 1938 and 1941, the ADI became the agency that deliberately tested the copyright laws. Bibliofilm Service and other ADI operations could be carried out because the Gentlemen’s Agreement provided a buffer, while the covert support of the Carnegie Corporation and the solid legal advice of RCBB shielded ADI against rigorous enforcement of the copyright laws.

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In 1935, Davis participated in two meetings that broadened his vision: the Congress of the International Institute of Documentation (IID) in Copenhagen and the Conference on Abstracting and Documentation of the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council. The Copenhagen congress brought Davis in contact with the European documentalists and gave him the opportunity to become familiar with the state-of-the-art in documentation, while the conference on abstracting and documentation brought together the most knowledgeable people to discuss the crucial issues affecting scientific journals and secondary publications.

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The Copenhagen Congress

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The IID Congress, held in September 1935, celebrated the fortieth jubilee of the founding of the International Institute of Bibliography,

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which had changed its name in 1932 to reflect the shift that had already occurred in its activities. The reports of Davis to his board of trustees and of Paul Vanderbilt to Carl Milam, secretary of the ALA, are bursting with enthusiasm.11 The greatest value of the meeting was that people from different countries and disciplines met one another, discussed new developments and old problems in documentation, and contemplated new technological and organizational approaches to the challenges. The documentalists came from diverse fields. They were librarians, “management experts, statisticians, photographers, archivists, patent office executives, municipal administrators, educators, engineers, technologists, editors and organizers of all kinds,” wrote Paul Vanderbilt. Nonetheless, a sense of community and camaraderie prevailed throughout the meeting.

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As in ADI meetings decades later, the group here struggled with the definition of documentation. It was agreed that documentation included more than books, that “real information may be found in unexpected places outside libraries,” and that any useful medium for the communication of thought — photographs, maps, letters, notebooks, card files, tables, personal records, displays, pamphlets, and periodicals — were included in documentation.

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Both Davis and Vanderbilt liked J. Arlingh Prins’s definition, put forth in his presidential address.

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We may consider as a document every object representing in material form a communication of human thought, and the subject of documentation, the sum total of everything which relates to documents.

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Prins felt, as did Otlet before him, that documentation embraced almost all intellectual work, although documentation also had more restricted meanings: first, the collection of documents dealing with a certain subject — a corpus of intellectual material — and, second, “all the measures necessary to procure for intellectual work the information and documents needed for any study.”

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Prins described “three stages” of documentation:

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(1) investigation as to what has been written about a subject or put into the form of a document,

(2) filing the material so that the place of each subject may be determined instantly, and

(3) placing the material at the disposal of those who need it.

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Providing access to documents was of utmost importance. Prins regarded the Dewey classification, “considerably improved“ by

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La Fontaine and Otlet, to be the “most serviceable.” Theoretically, however, what classification system was chosen was less important than that “one and the same system” be used nationally and internationally.

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The great emphasis on scientific bibliography at the congress did not surprise the Americans: after all, as many as 750,000 magazine articles were being published annually in pure and applied science. Document delivery was a major concern, and therefore S. C. Bradford, keeper of the Science Museum Library in London, recommended establishing an all-inclusive central library of science and technology to which other libraries could turn. Exposed to the ideas of Otlet and La Fontaine around the turn of the century, Bradford had become convinced of the need for a world bibliography. In 1928, the same year the Science Museum Library took over the science and technology section from the Universal Bibliographic Repertory in Brussels, Bradford also established a subject classified catalog in the library using the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC). Under Bradford’s leadership the Science Museum Library was actually becoming the unofficial national library of science and technology in Great Britain.12

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Otlet and La Fontaine, the founders of IID, envisioned a centralized organization for documentation. By 1935, however, it proved to be more practical for documentation to proceed on national lines first and then move to an international plane. Nonetheless, Prins hoped that the national organizations and international organizations in specialized fields of knowledge would cooperate with the IID. The attempt by the League of Nations’ International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation “to coordinate world efforts in documentation” was reviewed by the congress, which also considered copyright problems.

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“On all sides there is talk of using micro-film, near-printing and clever little gadgets of all kinds to supplement good library planning,” Paul Vanderbilt reported. The possible use of television as a tool in library service, the standardization of film, and the theory and practice of the decimal classification were discussed; a group from the Netherlands presented several papers on management research.

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Three Americans presented papers: Vanderbilt described his use of microfilm in compiling union catalogs in Philadelphia, L. Bendickson reported on his work at the Huntington Library in California, and Davis discussed his SII proposal, which Vanderbilt considered a valuable contribution “to the literature of information engineering.”

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While abroad, Davis took the opportunity to assess the use of microfilm technology in Europe and to confer with “a number of persons interested in science libraries, bibliography or abstracting.“ He found that a German commercial house was “applying microphotographic methods to the distribution of information from libraries“ and also offered to copy books onto microfilm.13 In France,

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in spite of great interest in this work, operations had not yet begun. He concluded that, on the whole, microphotographic work was most advanced in the United States. In London, Davis met up with Eugene B. Power, who was copying books from the British Museum with an adapted 35mm camera, following up on his concept of making scholarly works commercially available on microfilm. In contrast to Davis and Binkley, who looked at microfilm publishing merely as an aid to research workers, Power, who had just been introduced to microfilm that year, instantly thought of micropublishing as a potential commercial venture. He had been working on scholarly publications at Edwards Brothers of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and recognized the advantages of microfilm for publishing scholarly works needed for research but for which the demand would always be small. Power, apparently, was not familiar with the work of Paul Otlet written in, and not translated from, French and, even many years later, thought that microfilm publishing was his own original concept.14 In 1938, Power started University Microfilms, Inc., a firm that published reprints of scholarly materials, successfully combining scholarly interests with a commercial undertaking. Soon, other microfilm publishing companies were started, but his was the only one of the early companies that survived; today it is a subsidiary of a major corporation.

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The trip brought Davis into closer contact with others working on bibliographies and perfecting microfilm technologies and with people who shared his vision, broadened his outlook, and reinforced his belief that documentation was important and that he should persist in his efforts to realize his grand design.

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Conference on Abstracting and Documentation

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The major issues pertaining to scientific journals and secondary services had been a concern to scientific administrators. Some of the country’s best scientists discussed these issues at some of Davis’s Cosmos Club dinners. The depression, coupled with the growth of science and technology demanding expansion of publication, continued to threaten the existence of the journals announcing scientific discoveries. Scientific bibliography was in a crisis. Science, Nature, and other publications had failed to revive interest in the International Catalogue. For lack of funds, Index Medicus had to be turned over to the American Medical Association for publication. The Concilium Bibliographicum was defunct; Biological Abstracts was struggling for survival.15 Concern of the scientific community peaked when the ten-year

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Visions and Realities—Documentation in the 1930s 38

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Rockefeller grant for Biological Abstracts was about to expire and the future of this valuable tool remained uncertain.

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Because of these critical conditions, in December 1935 the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council called a two-day “Conference on Abstracting and Documentation.”16 Representatives of various fields of the natural sciences and of the major abstract journals were invited, together with a number of scientific editors, a few librarians, and representatives of the humanities and social sciences. Davis, Binkley, and Waldo Leland, director of the American Council of Learned Societies, were among the participants.

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F. R. Lillie, chairman of the National Research Council, talked about the importance of abstracting journals for investigators who would otherwise encounter difficulties making systematic reviews of the literature. With the grave financial problems journals were facing, Lillie thought it timely to explore “new methods of publication and distribution.”17

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Participants discussed how to maintain and improve abstracts and indexes and what types of publications were needed to support specialists. Surprisingly, more than a century after the first chemical abstract publication appeared in Germany, the editor of Biological Abstracts still felt that he had to defend the use of secondary tools, asserting: “Resorting to bibliographic aids as tools in research need not lead to superficial scholarship or decadence of standards.” An investigator would not stay content with “secondhand sources,” he stated; with the aid of abstracts investigators would need less time searching the literature and thus could spend more time to read in depth.18

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The conference participants agreed that each field of science needed bibliographic control of its literature; yet even a successful secondary publication, like Chemical Abstracts, could be sustained only in a field with an established industrial base. Less popular and more academic fields did not have a base from which they could draw adequate financial support. Specialties without a sufficiently large market had been entirely ignored. More abstract publications were needed to cover broad multidisciplinary — later called mission-oriented — fields. Biological Abstracts had major problems because of the breadth of the area it had to cover: six thousand serial publications in about twenty-five languages, several thousand books, and publications of academies and research institutions.

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The publication of research results was “as much part of the research undertaking as the actual investigation,“ Lillie pointed out at the meeting; publication costs represent only a very small part of project expenses, and the cost of abstracting and indexing the literature in a

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given field amounts to only a small percentage of the funds spent for research.19

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It is interesting to note that the possibility of information retrieval through electronic data processing was not even mentioned, although large businesses had been using punched cards to manage their information and some libraries were considering their use in administrative areas. Given the complexity of the issues, the thoughtful analyses of the problems of bibliographic tools and scientific publication did not lead to firm recommendations from the group as a whole.

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The discussions in Copenhagen and at the National Academy-National Research Council conference on abstracting reinforced Davis’s conviction that his concerns were valid. They undoubtedly bolstered his sense of mission to find alternatives for dissemination of research results and strengthened his belief that SIT could provide a solution.

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  1. Carl E. Schorske (1981), Fin-de-Siècle Vienna, p. 13 (see Prologue, n.9).
  2. Davis, “A World Bibliography of Scientific Literature,“ 25 November 1930 (Carbon), SA, cited also in the paragraphs below.
  3. Ibid, and Davis, “Project for Publication of Scientific Papers and Monographs that Can Not Now Secure Prompt and Complete Issuance,” Washington, D.C., 19 August 1933, reprinted as the first part of Appendix 8 in J. D. Bernal, The Social Function of Science (New York: Macmillan, 1939), 449-55. The second edition of the memorandum was an abbreviated and slightly modified version, 20 June 1935 (Mimeographed), SA.
  4. Davis, “Project for Publication.”
  5. Wilcomb E. Washburn, The Cosmos Club of Washington: A Centennial History 1878-1978. (Washington, D.C.: Cosmos Club, 1978), esp. 9, 85, 93, 103-104, 144. Cited also in the paragraph below.
  6. “Comments on Science Service Ideas on Scientific Publication and Bibliography,“ DISS Doc. 63, July 1935 (Mimeographed), SA: 10 pp. Cited to the end of this section.
  7. “A Project for the Reproduction and Distribution of Materials for Research in Small Editions, under Consideration by the Joint Committee on Materials for Research of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Research Council,” n.d., E. B. Power Collection, Box 48, Folder 1932; 8 pp. “1932, N.Y.C.” is jotted on the corner, but internal evidence indicates that it was likely to have been written in 1933 or later.
  8. Herman H. Fussier, Photographic Reproduction for Libraries: A Study in Administrative Problems (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1941), 174.
  9. [Robert C. Binkley], “Memorandum on the Copyright Problem,” 22 November 1937 (Ditto); “Copyright and Photocopy,” Joint Committee, 1, SA; H. M. Lydenberg to Binkley, 27 March 1935 (Copy), enclosure to Binkley’s letter of 1 April 1935 to Davis, SA.
  10. Robert C. Binldey and W. W. Norton, “Correspondence and Agreement on the Photographic Copying by Libraries of Copyrighted Material,“ n.p., May 1935 (Mimeographed), SA, reprinted in “The Gentlemen’s Agreement and the Problem of Copyright,“ )DR 2 (January 1939):29-36, and in Fussler, Photographic Reproduction.
  11. This section is primarily based on two reports: Paul Vanderbilt, “International Institute of Documentation. Thirteenth Congress, Copenhagen, September 10th to 14th, 1935,” Doc. 95, Philadelphia, Pa., October 1935 (Carbon), SA; and Watson Davis, “International Institute of Documentation Congress,” DDSS Doc. 91, October 1935 (Mimeographed), SA; also, Watson Davis, “International Institute of Documentation,” Nature (2 November 1935):727. Citations to the end of this section, are from Vanderbiles report, unless otherwise indicated.
  12. Bradford’s activities are recalled in his obituaries and several reminiscences: E. M. R. Ditmas, “Dr. S. C. Bradford,” Journal of Documentation 4 (December 1948)169-74, and “A Chapter Closes: Bradford, Pollard and Lancaster-Jones,“ College and Research Libraries 10 (October 1949):332-37; M. Gosset, “S. C. Bradford, Keeper of the Science Museum Library 1925-1937,” Journal of Documentation 3 (September 1977)173-76; D. J. Urquhart, “S. C. Bradford,” Journal of Documentation 3 (September 1977)177-79, and “Science Museum Library,” in The Libraries of London, ed. Raymond Irwin (London: Library Association, 1949), 42-47; F. Donker Duyvis, “S. C. Bradford, D.Sc., F.L.A.,” Revue de la documentation 16 (1949, Fasc. 41-2; J. Lancaster-Jones, “The U.D.C. and the Science Museum Library,” Revue de la documentation 27 (1960, no. 4):163; H. T. Pledge, “The Science Library,” in The Libraries of London, 2d ed., rev., eds. Raymond Irwin and Ronald Stavely (London: Library Association, 1964), 48-53. The political details are discussed in W. Boyd Rayward, The Universe of Information (see prologue, n. 8), esp. 306-7.
  13. Davis, “IID Congress.”
  14. . Eugene B. Power, interview with the author, Ann Arbor, Mich., 23 November 1976.
  15. “Conference on Scientific Publication and Bibliography,” 30 July 1935 [date of issue of memorandum], Doc. 48, SA.
  16. National Research Council, “Conference on Abstracting and Documentation of Scientific Literature,” 1935 (Mimeographed) 48 pp.; cited in the five paragraphs below; and DISS Doc. 164, SA. The Rockefeller Foundation provided funds for this conference (Watson Davis, “Conversation Between Dr. Lillie and WD,” 30 September 1935 [Mimeographed], DDSS Doc. 90, 1 p., SA, labeled “Confidential.”)
  17. National Research Council, 1.
  18. National Research Council, 2-3.
  19. National Research Council, 15.