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The date of March 17, 1937 is not correct. The correct date is Saturday, March 13, 1937, which is correctly stated on p. 8 of this book. March 17, 1937 is actually on Wed. Note by Bob Williams

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Public statements about the Documentation Division of Science Service (DDSS) reflected scholarly vigor and a promising future. Davis, however, was well aware of the March 31, 1937, deadline set by the executive committee and took deliberate steps to organize an independent documentation institute that could continue the DDSS projects.

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Having learned from the crisis of the previous summer, he kept the executive committee informed about his plans for the DDSS. He asked for their approval for Science Service to participate in a documentation institute that would serve not only science but also the social sciences and other disciplines; toward the end of 1936, he formulated a “Plan of the Documentation Institute.” Davis then called a “Documentation Conference” for preliminary discussions in January 1937 and held the organization meeting in March.1

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In his 1936 year-end report to Garvan, Davis recounted the accomplishments of the Documentation Division, discussed in chapter 3, and pointed out to Garvan that his Chemical Foundation grant had been a good investment for documentation work. For the $15,000 spent by Science Service in a year and a half, individual scientists contributed considerable time and effort. In addition, institutions and government agencies provided about $45,000 in services — a level of support that would otherwise not have come forth for documentation projects. Thus over $500,000 in 1990 dollars was expended in Science Service’s documentation projects.

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On Garvan’s suggestion, in late 1936, Davis drafted a “Plan for Documentation Institute.” In it he wrote:

Microphotographic duplication. . . has been demonstrated as a practical and economical aid to scholarly research and

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publication. . . . There is a need for a broad, energetic and intellectually-motivated development of all phases of documentation, particularly microphotographic duplication and its ramifications in the fields of the physical, natural, social, and historical sciences and the general sphere of libraries and information services.2

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He proposed therefore the organization of a nonprofit documentation institute, “capable of serving scholars of the world through societies, institutions, libraries, etc., or otherwise by facilitating and applying various techniques of documentation.” The institute would be “a service and research organization” that would absorb and apply “to the whole intellectual field” the work of the DDSS, with a program that would fall into five broad functions:

  1. Bibliofilm — development and sponsorship of copying services in libraries and other institutions, basically extending the current Bibliofilm Service, which would serve as a nucleus of the institute
  2. Publication — operation and further development of the Auxiliary Publication Service
  3. Bibliography — “Application of microphotographic techniques to bibliographical problems”; compilation of an “inclusive abstract and bibliographical file on microfilm,” from which comprehensive bibliographies on any subject could be produced on order, a long-term project “for which mechanisms and methods would need to be developed”
  4. Development — continuation of developing microphotographic methods and equipment, now carried out by DDSS in cooperation with the U.S. Naval Medical School, the Bureau of the Census, the USDA library, the Library of Congress, the Works Progress Administration, and others
  5. Research — “Exploration and inquiry into fundamental principles, methods and materials that enter into documentation — research into photography, optics, physiological aspects of the techniques, classification, etc.”
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The “primary and immediate objective” of the proposed institute, however, was the development of microphotographic duplication “for scholarly pursuits” but with a broad enough scope to allow it to engage in any phase of documentation, even conventional publishing. “As soon as apparatus and understanding allowed,” the institute would extend the ongoing DDSS activities “and cooperate with other institutions involved in microphotographic work, such as the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, or Yale University.”

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Development of equipment, improved cameras, reasonable reading devices, more stable chemicals, better laboratories, and establishment of “practical standards” were part of Davis’s plan and were all essential to make full use of the microfilm technology.

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International cooperation to benefit the scientific and scholarly community was another proposed activity. DDSS had already started such cooperation with the outstanding Science Museum Library of London, making many foreign sources accessible to U.S. scholars and scientists.

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Davis concluded the Plan by urging the organization of a documentation institute at once to “promote, enhance, and spread adequately to all scholarly fields” the work carried out by DDSS. The institute could build on the “large interest and even enthusiasm” created in the United States and abroad and “give impetus and direction to a new tool in our intellectual life.”

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Davis’s next tactical step was to invite a select group to a conference on documentation to discuss the proposed documentation institute. The participants belonged to the elite of their intellectual fields and understood the value of documentation services. The conference, held in the handsome Board Room of the National Academy of Sciences, was of such interest that the executive secretaries of the National Academy, the National Research Council, and the AAAS came to participate. The majority of the twenty-nine people attending represented various government bureaus, such as the National Bureau of Standards and the Bureau of the Census. The American Council of Education was represented; Solon Buck, T. R. Schellenberg, and Vernon Tate came from the National Archives. The Library of Congress also sent three representatives. Draeger, Seidell, Helen Davis, and F. G. Cottrell were also included.3

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Davis regarded this conference and the organizing meeting in March of such historic importance that he had them recorded in detail. Thus, instead of the typically bland sentences in the terse minutes he usually wrote for his board of trustees, these records capture a sense of the events, the tone of the discussions, and the views of the key people who influenced the organization of the ADI.

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At the Documentation Conference, the chairman of the National Research Council, Ludvig Hektoen, who was also a member of the executive committee of Science Service, welcomed the participants to this meeting “of significance to all who are interested in the advancement of knowledge and education.” Davis recalled the events leading

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up to the conference — the early discussions with Cottrell, who suggested that “small-size images on motion picture film might be useful for scientific publication”; the 1926 memorandum written with Slosson, which first brought together the ideas that led to this gathering; and the futile attempts to interest manufacturers in the microfilm market. Now, a decade later, interest in microfilm was growing. The value of microfilm copying for preservation had already been amply demonstrated when the original records, microfilmed for a major Library of Congress project, were destroyed in the Spanish Civil War.

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Documentation was broader than the field of science to which Science Service operations were restricted, Davis declared. The time had come for documentation to have “its own organization and own sponsorship” to take over project operations. “We think the time has come for documentation to have its own documentation institute.”

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The conference proceeded unevenly. Here and at the organization meeting in March, much time was spent in trying to clarify how the proposed institute was going to function. The objectives of the documentation institute were broad based, and the Plan providing the background for the discussions was quite general. Davis had not given up on the idea of a Scientific Information Institute and expected that the new organization would eventually carry out documentation research. But his immediate concern was to find a home for the DDSS projects. Even with a six-month extension granted by the executive committee of Science Service, he knew that without a new organization to carry on, the DDSS projects were doomed.

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Soon it became obvious that the three existing DDSS projects — the Bibliofilm Service, the Auxiliary Publication Service, and development of equipment — would be the core of the institute’s activities, leaving the participants not already committed to these projects to question the value of the proposed institute.

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The discussion topics ranged from a centrally operated bibliofilm service, to document copying, to deciding what documentation entailed, to microfilm publishing and developing equipment, and finally to the definition of the goal toward which the new institution should strive.

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The administrators of scientific and scholarly organizations participating in the conference and the organization meeting represented, in essence, the user community. They came from many fields but shared an interest in improving access to the results of research and thus a concern for bibliography. None of them had considered establishing an independent institute to help scientists and scholars to obtain the documents and data they needed for their research, but the scientists favored the activities Davis proposed for the institute and were not particularly concerned about details of its future operations.

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Library administrators, on the other hand, whose libraries would have had to carry some of the load of Bibliofilm Service operations, asked more critical questions and expressed strong objections. They were not eager to support projects that would interfere with their own operations and would impose unpredictable costs on their organizations.

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The concept of documentation was so unfamiliar that at both meetings Solon Buck thought it necessary to define the term for the participants. Buck was director of publications of the National Archives and a member of the Joint Committee, who became archivist of the United States in 1941. At the conference he explained that

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[t]he word document exists both in English and French with quite different meanings. It is used here in a sense between the two. As used in English it has meant. . . supplying of references to sources of information that one has used. We say a book is documented, that is, if references have been given. The French usage is in a broader sense involving the whole field of activity of documents and materials for research including the whole aspect of research.

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At the organization meeting Buck read the definition of documents put forth by the International Institute of Bibliography in 1908:

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Documents comprise all that which represents or expresses by means of graphical signs (writing, pictures, diagrams and charts, figures, symbols), an object, a deed, an idea or an impression. Printed texts (books, magazines, newspapers) today constitute the most numerous category of them. [Translated from L’Institut International de Bibliographie, Notice — Catalogues, Publication No.95 (Brussels, Paris, Zurich, 1908), 5-8.]4

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Discussions at the conference, however, did not touch on the critical issues of bibliography or on documentation research but centered on Bibliofilm Service. Davis made it clear that his aim was to develop a bibliofilm library-network throughout the country, with the documentation institute as a clearinghouse for locating documents. The librarians viewed this with mistrust. They thought that the economic basis for Bibliofilm Service was unsound; they were also apprehensive, believing that a centralized service would bring about inefficient bureaucracies, impose impractical restrictions on some libraries, and violate the autonomy of the institutions.

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When Davis formulated his ideas for the SIT and, later, for the plan of the documentation institute, he was unrestrained by — or rather

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oblivious to — the traditions of librarianship. His mind was open to exploring new ideas in science but, like many an idealist, he also viewed organizations, and the people working in them, as mechanisms, in an abstract fashion. Not that he did not appreciate human qualities, but Davis, like many of his contemporaries, still believed in the myth of superior, fully rational human beings. Not until the second half of the century was this myth of Western cultures gradually stripped away. Despite the Freudian influence on the American intelligentsia, in the 1930s people were not yet ready to acknowledge that even heroes and detached scholars with noble ideas and the best of intentions harbored anger, ambition, pride, jealousy, and anxiety, the whole panoply of human emotions.

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In the meetings leading to the organization of ADI, both Davis and the librarians understood that libraries would have to cooperate closely with Bibliofilm Service. With a cause so noble, and with projects planned to benefit scholars and scientists, Davis was taken aback by the resistance of librarians and by their opposition to a centralized organization that would enable them to provide additional services. He did not see that underlying some disagreements were vague, often unexpressed feelings of concern about the importance of their own organizations and a determination to defend their own turf.

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The seasoned library administrators participating in the conference and the organization meeting were among the few who had microphotographic laboratories in their institutions. They had become familiar with the kinds of problems the technology could bring about and knew that even with the recent improvements routine film reproduction was still troublesome. They objected to Davis’s Well-intentioned ground rules — such as uniform charges — because the librarians considered them unsound based on current realities.

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Indeed, Davis’s plans for DDSS and, later, ADI documentation projects took on an unrealistic hue. As director of a small, independent, nontraditional organization, he relied on and was able to gain the cooperation of the scientific community and government officials. But neither he, the people with whom he was in closest contact, nor the innovative thinkers he most admired had managed large operations. Also, he could observe first-hand that even the federal government, the largest organization in the country, disregarded traditional wisdom as it attempted to curb the depression and that the radical changes it introduced met with apparent success. Davis was convinced that access to other scientists’ data would improve scientific research and that foundations or even a government bureau would step in, if necessary, to make up deficits of the documentation institute.

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The participants in the meetings became clearly divided during the discussions: one group primarily of scientists, another consisting of librarians, and a few people in between. The participating scientists, whose own organizations were not directly touched by the proposed operations, were primarily interested in distributing the results of research. They, on the whole, liked the Plan, favored the concept of a centralized Bibliofilm operation, and very likely agreed with Davis that by eliminating multiple administrative services the cost of the service would be reduced, ultimately benefiting the users.

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The permanent secretary of the AAAS, Henry B. Ward, thought that the documentation institute would be a time-saver for scientists who often have difficulties finding out where a work is located. The development of the National Union Catalog, listing the libraries that held a particular work, was going to simplify such retrieval, and cooperation between the Union Catalog and the documentation institute could be synergistic, suggested the director of the Union Catalog at the Library of Congress.5

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In view of the librarians’ concern, it is not entirely surprising that the opening question at the documentation conference was whether the ALA was officially and enthusiastically interested in the project. Given the necessary role libraries had to play in supporting the projected Bibliofilm network, it is astonishing that Davis had not made a greater effort to review his Plan with the ALA leadership or hammer out ahead of the meeting some of the differences in philosophy with members of the library community he knew. As the March organization meeting was approaching, Carl H. Milam, secretary of the ALA, expressed strong interest in the event and asked that two or three delegates be invited and that material about the meeting be sent to a group of ALA notables.6

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The ADI could only have been established with the support of scientists. Yet, from the records of the conference and the organization meeting, the statements of Watson Davis, Robert Binkley, Solon Buck, and M. Llewellyn Raney stand out most clearly. Although Raney, director of the University of Chicago libraries and chairman of ALA’s Committee on Documentary Reproduction, to his chagrin had not been invited to the conference in January, his trenchant letters to Davis and discussions at the organization meeting leave no doubt about his views and express the librarians’ position forcefully.

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Binkley participated in the organization of the ADI because he thought that it would become the organization to relieve problems of scholarly communication, which was his major concern.

Buck, on the other hand, wanted to see a documentation institute established because of the National Archives’ interest in document preservation. He wanted the program of the institute to include technologies

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for document preservation and to extend to a broader community what had been learned at the National Archives. Buck also hoped that in addition to standardized rates, the institute would provide uniform work, stimulate other organizations to such service, and provide portable cameras and apparatus. He represented the view of forward-looking archivists who, in the 1930s, wished to make full use of microfilm technology and who recognized that archivists had much in common with documentalists and librarians. By the 1940s the archivists distanced themselves from the librarians and documentalists, and it was not until thirty or forty years later that new technical developments again brought archivists closer to other information workers.

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As one of the participants in the conference remarked, everyone at the conference was interested in some aspects of the organization proposed by Davis. But what should be the concerns of the documentation institute? “If availability of all documents should be the goal,” the group ought to consider an organization “that would tie in statistics, libraries, associations, etc.”7 Documentation was like a river flooding: if interpreted as it was by the IID, it would extend beyond the scope of the institute as proposed in the Plan. Documentation would touch practically on all the work of the Joint Committee and of the American Historical Association, it would cover the work of the National Archives and the WPA’s historical record survey on country and state archives, and it would also be concerned about methods of editing and of citation. Some perceived that documentation “may be taking in too much territory to bring together all this work in a single focus and [also] make known what is being done.” Buck, on the other hand, still advocated a documentation institute that “would involve consideration of all activities and therefore should have a very broad basis.”

During the discussions, primarily concerned about document delivery, it emerged that scientists were most interested in current studies, while scholars were primarily interested in older materials. Luther Evans, the director and organizer of the WPA historical records survey of state and country archives, thought that instead of having many people copying titles to land for the government, a microfilm library of county deeds would be a useful project. Ludvig Hektoen objected to the idea because the scope of the proposed institute was to be “limited largely to scientific and scholarly work.” Buck then explained to the executive secretary of the National Research Council that deeds often were part of scholarly research.

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Buck saw no difficulties in making the scope of the institute broad enough to “serve all fields and specific projects that organizations would want to carry out.” While at first microfilm projects and

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Bibliofilm operations should be developed, he wanted the door left open “to new phases of documentation as opportunity offered.”

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The conference on documentation concluded with a motion that those present favored organizing a documentation institute “to correlate, develop and promote activities that relate to any aspect of the field of documentation” and endorsed “the plans as outlined for immediate development.”

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Planning the Organization

As directed by the conference, Davis appointed a “committee of five.” Each member was highly respected by his peers: Solon Buck; Ludvig Hektoen; W. H. Howell, chairman of the executive committee of Science Service; Waldo G. Leland, permanent secretary, American Council of Learned Societies; and H. M. Lydenberg, director of the New York Public Library and a past president of the ALA.8 Buck, Leland, and D. W. Connor, who became the first Archivist of the United States, had been instrumental in creating an interest among historians concerned about archives to work out archival problems based on sound principles of archival economy. Leland and Buck also helped draw up the constitution of the Society of American Archivists in 1936. Albeit during ADI’s first decade Leland and Lydenberg kept in touch with ADI activities only indirectly, they considered the formation of the institute of sufficient importance that they wanted to have a voice in determining the way it was to be organized.

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The committee of five, with Davis as chairman, agreed to select a large “advisory committee” of perhaps one hundred by inviting “representatives of specialized societies, journals, libraries, institutions, organizations, and specially interested or qualified individuals.” They also recommended that a “documentation assembly” be held annually “as a forum for the expression of this advisory committee.”9

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Yet, even Buck and others who encouraged the movement to put all documentation interests together had some doubts about the direction the institute was going to take, as Binkley wrote later to R. T. Crane, secretary of the Social Science Research Council, the cosponsor of the Joint Committee. Davis wanted to “institutionalize around Bibliofilm Service a large-scale organization for documentation generally”; and those interested in documentation were concerned that the institute was being launched “with a somewhat imperialistic notion of the

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expansion of the bibliographic service,” which involved “microfilm copying of short articles from libraries and of deposited manuscripts in reproductions of about 12 diameters.”10

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Llewelyn Raney objected to the Plan. The University of Chicago was just beginning to get involved in microfilm work thanks to a Rockefeller Foundation grant. He wrote to Davis that the university was about to construct “an academic laboratory for the production of the best film thru [sic] mechanized operations at the lowest possible price levels,” which Raney hoped would serve “a beneficent function for the entire field.” Raney was a strong administrator. He could be contentious, expressing his approval or opposition with a vigor and intensity quite unusual for the profession.11

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Davis had primed the pump and initiated worthwhile services. But Raney questioned whether any more would be gained “by coupling such institutional establishments into a national system centrally controlled in Washington” than by “linking chemical laboratories of various universities into national union, centrally controlled.” Other institutions were about to install cameras, and he saw no advantage to the University of Chicago or any other institution to be a member of an organization whose program would be fixed by a national institute in Washington.

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According to Binkley, Davis’s model for the ADI was the National Research Council, in which all scientific and technical organizations of the United States were represented. As mentioned in chapter 1, the council was established by President Wilson during World War I with the strong support of the country’s scientific elite to coordinate research and to promote cooperation among the scientific and technical bureaus of government. The constituency of the proposed documentation institute, however, was not only much broader than that of the council but was also much more diffuse. Even with the compelling motivation that brought the National Research Council into existence after the country had re-covered from the effects of World War I, the council’s role as a coordinating body and as a national institution was already diminishing by the 1930s. Davis, who was exposed to the most dynamic members of the National Academy-National Research Council through his office and through his board of trustees, saw an influential and prestigious body in the council. He believed that members nominated by scholarly and scientific organizations and government institutions would provide the strength of the proposed institute and that through these representatives the institute would be tied to the intellectual communities of the country and would be of service to them.

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The organization meeting of the American Documentation Institute took place at the National Academy of Sciences on Saturday, March 17, 1937. The Planning Committee invited a number of organizations, “nominating bodies,” to participate in the Documentation Institute and send their representatives to the meeting and also invited several individuals actively interested in microphotography. Thirty-two scholarly and scientific societies, government bureaus, and some libraries were represented at the meeting.

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The delegates received the December 1936 “Plan for Documentation Institute,” the agenda of the meeting, materials describing Bibliofilm Service and the Auxiliary Publication Service, and copies of the articles of incorporation based on the 1921 Science Service document.

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Davis had to begin the meeting by clarifying a confusing situation. He explained to the delegates that even though they had been invited as representatives of their organizations, they should act as individuals in their deliberations as they considered “whether or not a Documentation Institute was to be formed.” Davis and Buck, who was elected temporary chairman of the meeting, had to reassure the delegates every time a decision was to be made or a vote was called. The delegates who came to the meeting as representatives of their organization could not quite believe that an affirmative vote only meant approval of the organization of a documentation institute but no personal or institutional commitment to become part of it.12

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he proposed documentation institute was to be a not-for-profit Delaware corporation with members to be nominated by various scholarly institutions, “nominating bodies,” as originally suggested in the plan. Davis must have thought the arguments for establishing the institute compelling enough that he put off until the afternoon informing the delegates that the DDSS activities would cease unless a new organization were formed to take them over.

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Discussion of Concerns

The meeting proceeded informally. Buck, the chairman pro tern, did not even try to adhere to agenda. The objectives of the proposed institute were so general and the expectations of the invited delegates so divergent that several issues had to be clarified before the group was ready to discuss the proposal. Even those favoring Davis’s “Plan for Documentation Institute,” circulated earlier, had some reservations. Questions were raised about the objectives, the future activities, and funding of the proposed institute and whether it should focus on

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continuing current DDSS operations or on broad-based documentation activities. Was there a need for a new institution, and if so, would the documentation institute, as proposed, serve these purposes best? The doubts, objections, and concerns expressed at the January conference were brought up again, and, as in January, discussions focused on current DDSS projects rather than on more fundamental issues of documentation or on broader bibliographic concerns.

Raney was particularly perturbed about extending the Bibliofilm operations and was the first, and most persistent, to express his opposition. Several of the delegates present had gathered in New York the previous day, Raney said, to consider the documentation institute plans. They agreed that “something should be started,” but questioned the feasibility of the proposed Bibliofilm operations.

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Even if the delegates could reach agreement at this meeting, he asserted that some features in the proposed organization were impossible to implement. Furthermore, Raney stated, “not a single one of us in this room has any power to bind any organization or specific institution.” Raney was chairman of the Committee on Documentary Reproduction; the ALA was actually represented at this meeting by Harrison Craver, its president; Carl Milam, its secretary; and H. M. Lydenberg, its past president, who was also a member of Davis’s Committee of Five. Raney remained a vocal opponent of the Plan. The librarians present agreed with much of his argument.

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Bibliofilm Network

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Davis had listened to earlier objections to the Bibliofilm Service and was prepared to respond to the various questions put to him. He still believed that Bibliofilm Service would provide “a mechanism” whereby “individual and self-controlled copying services in libraries could cooperate to the advantage of the scholarly worker.”

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The bibliofilm network would indeed be possible if cooperating libraries agreed on a standard, reasonable price for microfilm copying, used the same order system, and produced essentially a uniform product. Funds among libraries then could be exchanged using “bibliofilm checks,” with the Documentation Institute acting as a clearinghouse. Such a plan would preserve initiative and control in individual libraries and would give the scholarly world something it did not have at the time — the ability to use the resources of scholarly America in an easy and effective way, Davis explained.

Trying to find a speedy and economic way of getting material to the scholar — “thus urging civilization forward” — Raney agreed, was “a praiseworthy effort.” But the interlibrary loan systems and the newly

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developed National Union Catalog at the Library of Congress, together with the regional catalogs in Philadelphia, Denver, and Cleveland, offered other options. Should a few more regional catalogs be established to cover the West, one could imagine that “eight carbons could take care of an inquiry.” The new director of the National Union Catalog, T. R. Schwegmann, had earlier told the group that the Library was able to locate two-thirds of all book requests coming to the Union Catalog. In nearly 60 percent of the cases the material was actually listed in the Union Catalog; for the rest “a solicitation is made of 40 or 50 libraries and about 20% of the material is found through them.”

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Furthermore, the need for a Bibliofilm network would soon be decreasing, Raney maintained. At this point only a very few suitable cameras existed but in a few years “cameras will be as characteristic in libraries as typewriters.”

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As the discussions were veering off the main topic, Buck, as chairman tried to get back to the main issue: starting a documentation institute. He reassured the delegates that the bylaws “contain[ed] no reference to setting up the Bibliofilm Service net or any other specific activity.” The object was to establish a broad agency in the field of documentation. The Documentation Institute itself would then decide on the activities in which it would engage.
The certificate of incorporation was essentially the same as that used by Science Service sixteen years earlier and since then used by several nonprofit institutions. The $2,500 left over from the Chemical Foundation grants could carry the institute for three months and the planning committee hoped that funds could be found to support the documentation institute for the rest of the year. Despite Davis’s and Buck’s reassurances, the delegates had difficulties believing that with only a thin financial cushion there were no plans to levy dues of any kind. Even with repeated explanations the participants were hesitant to proceed.

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Craver, director of the Engineering Societies Library, saw merit in the institute. Paul Vanderbilt, who was responsible for union catalog projects in Philadelphia and had attended the 1935 IID Congress with Davis, thought that the ideal toward which they were striving may be one hundred years ahead and pointed out that the concerns of the documentation institute went beyond library interests; they included handling information that was neither in book form nor in libraries. As far as Vanderbilt understood, the institute would carry documentation “to its highest refinements.” He also recommended that the institute start an educational program to make people who do not think in terms of libraries and microfilms aware of the possibilities.

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As discussions progressed, Major A. Parker Hitchens, speaking for himself “and not for the Union of American Biological Societies,” said impatiently that the meeting was seemingly called “to continue the cooperation and the work that has been started by Mr. Davis and his colleagues.” He thought that the documentation institute was a good idea but the turn the discussion had taken was not unlike asking someone to tell us how many degrees are going to be engraved on a tombstone of a child just born. We have confidence in the parents and know that the child will grow up to have a half dozen or so degrees, and I am quite willing to have the accouchement proceed.

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Before the delivery, however, the Auxiliary Publication Service had to be reviewed and the development of microphotographic equipment discussed. Davis explained to the delegates that DDSS had the right to use Draeger’s apparatus but that the patents had been assigned to the Chemical Foundation to administer them “for the good and progress of our civilization”; Davis thought the documentation institute could derive income from distributing equipment.

The action sped up after lunch, when Harrison E. Howe revealed that “as a Trustee of Science Service my impression is that the activity is not a continuing enterprise,” mentioning for the first time that they were “either discontinuing the work or setting up a new organization.”

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At this point Buck told the assembled delegates that “legally and technically,” the institute could have been organized at the January conference. He thought, however, that they should have “the advice and assistance of as many scholarly organizations and libraries and others as are willing to join in the broad and admittedly vague cooperative enterprise,” which would probably “develop along a great many lines in the future.”

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Before the vote that was to follow Vernon Tate asked for a definition of documentation.

“May I ask if Dr. Tate wishes the Chair to answer?” responded Buck. “I should like to know just what we are voting on,” countered Tate. “The answer to your question is contained in the proposed Articles of Incorporation,” was the response. But Schwegmann offered a further explanation to Tate:

I assume we are voting on the. . . question in an abstract way, that is, the need is being voted on abstractly. Assuming that there are functions which could be used by research scholars, which are not now being taken care of completely enough by other agencies, this Documentation Institute will take care of these

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functions. Provided it takes care of these functions, it is something that could be of value to scholars.

It was then moved, seconded, and carried that the incorporation of a Documentation Institute is desirable.”

Several participants, among them Waldo Leland and some librarians, wanted to postpone the vote until they had an opportunity to discuss the documentation institute with their organizations.

Finally, Davis laid the facts about the DDSS on the table: the DDSS was an operating concern that could be turned over to the Documentation Institute. The operation of [DDSS] has been fixed so that we can come to a point on March 31, 1937, where the activities can be stopped if the new organization wishes to stop them.” The employees had been given notice of termination of services. We have legally and financially a clean slate.” He hoped that the Bibliofilm Service, the Auxiliary Publication Service, and the research activities could be continued. But if we do not have some legal entity to turn the child over to, the child may die.”

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Whether or not these valuable services” would be continued beyond the current month would be determined by the trustees of the documentation institute, responded Buck to Binkley’s concerned question. Reassured that issues could later be cleared up by the institute’s board of trustees and that a vote to establish the institute would be procedural and not carry any obligations for the voter, the group agreed that a board of trustees would be elected from among them to work out the bylaws.

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Davis called the roll. Forty-five persons were in favor, five against, and ten abstained. The five negative votes came from librarians, as did three of the abstentions, although James Thayer Gerould of Princeton, Charles Rush of Yale, and ALA’s Carl Milam voted for the motion.

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While the nominating committee was out the delegates discussed possible nominating agencies and listened to Buck’s suggestion for a document preservation center as a possible project for the institute, a center that would make use of the new processes developed by the National Archives to benefit all libraries in the nation, and to Davis’s proposal for a journal, possibly Documentation, to coordinate documentation activities.

The nominating committee, Henry B. Ward, Waldo Leland, and Vernon Tate, proposed Robert C. Binkley, Solon J. Buck, Watson Davis, James Thayer Gerould, and Ludvig Hektoen for the board of trustees. The motion unanimously carried.

The Documentation Institute was now an official entity. The Documentation Division activities of Science Service could now be transferred intact to the new organization.

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The trustees agreed by mail vote on the name American Documentation Institute, Inc., prefixing American to denote its national character and to prevent any confusion with the International Institute of Documentation.” The new organization for the promotion of development of documentation for scholarly and scientific fields,” with members nominated by scholarly and scientific agencies,” was incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation.13

The bylaws were broad to allow ADI to engage in activities in all areas of documentation, publication, development of equipment, and duplication and transmission of information using any medium — including television and photoelectric radio.

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Members were to be elected for a period of three years and nominated by each of the eighty organizations and government agencies on the list. Some were persons holding offices, such as the librarian of Congress, the secretary of agriculture, the commissioner of education (Office of Education), the chairman of the Central Statistical Board, and the surgeons general of the army, navy, and U.S. Public Health Service. New organizations could be added through vote of the membership, and no dues or fees were to be paid either by the members or the nominating organizations.

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ADI’s officers were elected at the first meeting of the board of trustees in April 1937: Watson Davis was elected president, Robert Binkley vice-president, and Solon Buck treasurer. ADI’s objectives were broad, leading Davis to follow his natural tendency to engage in, as some considered, too many projects. This was not the case in its first year when the board of trustees took a firm stand in planning ADI’s activities. Binkley, who accepted the nomination to the board because the ACLS and the Social Science Research Council, cosponsors of the Joint Committee, had an interest in ADI, was one member of the board who took a strong hand in determining its direction.

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An Attempt to Start a Journal

The ADI, like scientific or professional societies, wished to start a journal as soon as it was organized. The ALA and the Special Libraries Association (SLA), for instance, had both started a journal the year they were founded. The institute did not fit into a traditional mold of professional society or trade organization. ADI’s interests partly overlapped, but went beyond, traditional library and bibliographic work. Its constituency was diffuse, connected by fragile threads for whom

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a journal that pulled the various communities together would have been especially useful.

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Davis, president of ADI; Binkley, chairman of the Joint Committee; and Llewellyn Raney, chairman of ALA’s Committee on Documentary Reproduction, were most interested in starting a journal.14 Davis and Raney may have had their strong professional and philosophical differences, but they also shared an evangelic zeal in promoting their causes and were able to put aside disagreements and overcome personality conflicts to work in concert. Davis could not accept Raney’s invitation to participate in the June 1937 ALA meeting, moreover, because the ADI did not have an additional camera and had neither money nor personnel available for exhibitions, he could not even provide a Bibliofilm exhibit.15

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He did, however, commission Vernon D. Tate to investigate the need for a periodical devoted to microphotography and documentation.” Tate, a historian, had established a first-rate laboratory at the National Archives that set qualitative standards for microphotographic work; later he became director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) library.

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The spark of interest in microfilm was flaring up. An experimental issue of a trade journal, Microfilm, appeared unexpectedly at the meeting, reflecting new commercial interests. The trade journal, distributed by International Film Book Corporation — a new company in the market that later went out of business — was well received by librarians. This issue brought news on photographic reproduction, highlighted the possibilities of microfilm, and featured outstanding personalities, including Davis, Binkley, Charles Rush of Yale University, and Tate.

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A microphotography luncheon was arranged at the ALA meeting to discuss the question of a documentation journal. In contrast to most of the Science Service luncheons, this was not a meeting of the user community but primarily of operational people. Some of them had participated in ADI’s organization meeting; a few others, including Eugene Power, who would soon start University Microfilms, represented commercial microphotographic interests. All were in favor of starting a professional journal.

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The ADI was suggested as the logical organization to handle such a scientific publication; Raney did not oppose it, but Keyes Metcalf’ wanted to involve a wider group — the Committee on Documentary Reproduction of the ALA, the Joint Committee, the ADI, and also manufacturers — to decide on what kind of journal should be published.16 Metcalf, who grew into one of the outstanding librarians in the country, had by then accumulated considerable experience in microphotography. The ALA remained his chief interest, but at the

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time he participated in documentation activities on the behest of Lydenberg, his director.

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Tate, together with Rush, Power, and Metcalf, started planning a journal devoted to the uses of photographic techniques and reproduction.” All agreed that there was sufficient interest to warrant a trade journal, such as Microfilm, as well as a permanent magazine” that would be more scholarly and broader in its technical interests” than the trade publication.17 Both Binkley and Davis wanted to expand the scope of this publication beyond microphotography. Not surprisingly, Binkley wanted the journal to include all available reproduction techniques short of printing” and topics about document preservation and about the technical laboratory setting. Davis wanted the publication eventually to cover all fields of interest to the ADI, and he recommended that the journal be coordinated with the IID Communicationes.

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All involved agreed that they wanted a journal of quality that would appeal to the librarian, the manufacturer, the scholar, the scientist, the technician engaged in the production of microfilm materials, and the business man, particularly through their special libraries.”18 Raney suggested that at the start the journal could expand the DDSS practice of distributing mimeographed documents. Davis recommended a monthly journal and proposed that detailed reports, speeches, and papers be issued separately under the Auxiliary Publication plan.

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Davis promoted the ADI, while Raney saw the Committee for Documentary Reproduction as the logical sponsor for the journal. Binkley thought it would be a mistake for either the Documentation Institute or the microphotography committee of the ALA to move into the picture and establish any kind of pre-emption without accord by the other.” He stressed, writing to Raney, that he thought it most important to involve the Davis group” in long-range planning. Binkley believed that from a practical point of view, it would be easier to modify the [A]DI in such a way as to make it the appropriate agency” to provide the office and administrative facilities for the journal, rather than use the ALA committee with its changing membership.19

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Davis left for Europe in August 1937 to participate in the World Congress in Paris. By the time he returned, the matter of the new journal seemed to have been settled, and it is unclear how the decision was reached. At the next board meeting of the ADI it was announced that the ALA would publish a new journal, titled Journal of Documentary Reproduction (JDR).20

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The Carnegie Corporation provided a grant of $5,000 (nearly $45,000 in 1990 dollars) because of the interest of Frederick Keppel, its president. Tate, who was editor of the journal from 1938 to 1943 (when it ceased publication during World War II), believed that the decision to publish the JDR under ALA auspices was made partly for political reasons.

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In retrospect, Keppel’s decision should not have been surprising. The ADI was a new, diffuse and, most of all, untested organization. On the other hand, Keppel knew the leaders of the library community and was instrumental in providing funds for ALA to transform it into a national institution.21

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The JDR initially brought mainly technical material to its readership, first describing primarily cameras and techniques and later shifting to cover more topics relating to operations. General issues and news about meetings and publications of interest to those involved in microphotography were also covered, providing a badly needed information clearinghouse for microfilm activities.

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The journal reported on the annual meetings of the ADI. News about the institute, the Bibliofilm Service, and the Auxiliary Publication Service appeared regularly. The JDR concentrated on microphotographic reproduction rather than the broader issues of documentation and bibliography. Nonetheless, it was useful to ADI members; the journal also cut across disciplinary barriers and reached interested professions” outside the library world.22 This was a time when librarians and library administrators had to be closely involved in a new technology: those who understood the technology came from a different professional culture and could not understand the specific needs of libraries and archives. The JDR was noncommercial but was not a scholarly publication. Yet it was timely, providing the needed background that helped members of the library community make better operational and management decisions.

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Immediately after the war Davis proposed that the journal be resumed under ADI auspices. For a number of reasons, its revival had to wait, but in 1950 the publication of the Journal was resumed by the ADI under the name American Documentation; when the ADI changed its name in 1968, it became the Journal of the American Society for Information Science (JASIS).

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The ADI was organized and ready to start functioning. Even though it did not have its own journal, the ADI could communicate with its membership and a wider public indirectly. The microfilm-based operations still dominated its activities, although Davis hoped that once the pioneering operations were functioning smoothly, the ADI would carry out other documentation activities and advance basic research in the field.

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Davis had accomplished his objective. There now existed a structure, a legal entity, which could carry out the documentation activities he had envisioned. But there was also a significant shift; although Davis remained the dominant figure. in ADI during the next decade, the new organization, just by coming into being, had begun to move beyond Davis’s sole influence.

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Organizing the American Documentation Institute 75

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  1. Watson Davis, Plan for Documentation Institute,” 1936, Doc. 232 (Mimeographed), 7pp, SA, marked Confidential” (in this transition period the documents are not marked DDSS” nor ADI”); Conference on Documentation,” January 1937 (Mimeographed); Planning Committee for Organization of Documentation Institute,” February 1937 (Mimeographed), SA; American Documentation Institute, Organization Meeting, Saturday, March 13, 1937, 2101 Constitution Avenue, Washington, D.C.,” Doc. 250 (Mimeographed), 22 pp., SA; Articles of Incorporation, By-laws of American Documentation Institute, Inc.,” 15 May 1937 (Washington, D.C., Mimeographed), SA.
  2. All subsequent quotations in this section are from Davis, Plan.”
  3. The references for the subsequent ten paragraphs are from Conference on Documentation” (see n. 1).
  4. Organization Meeting” (see n. 1).
  5. Conference on Documentation” (see n. 1).
  6. Carl H. Milam to Davis, 23 February 1937 (Copy), SA.
  7. Conference on Documentation” (see n. 1).
  8. Davis, Planning Committee” (n. 1); and Keyes D. Metcalf, interview with author, Belmont, Mass., 30 September 1981.
  9. Davis, Planning Committee” (n. 1)
  10. Robert C. Binkley to R.T. Crane, 15 July 1937 (Carbon), JCMR Collection, Box 33, Crane.”
  11. M. Llewellyn Raney to Davis, 6 January 1937, DSS Doc. 290 (Mimeographed), SA, cited also in the next paragraph.
  12. Organization Meeting” (see n. 1), cited through this and the following sections.
  13. Articles of Incorporation” (n. 1).
  14. Binkley to Crane, 10 June 1937.
  15. Davis to Raney, 9 June 1937 (Carbon); and Raney to Davis, 11 June 1937, SA.
  16. Discussion Microphotography Luncheon — Waldorf Astoria, June 24, 1937” (Typed), SA, in draft form.
  17. Vernon H. Tate,Report of Survey Made on a Possible Periodical,” 16 July 1937, SA.
  18. Davis to Tate, 26 July 1937 (Carbon), SA; and Binkley to Tate, 26 July 1937 (Carbon), SA, marked copy.”
  19. Correspondence between Binkley and Raney, June and July 1937 (Carbon), SA, marked copy.”
  20. Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the American Documentation Institute,” noted henceforth as ADIBT, 29 November 1937, p. 3.
  21. Keppel, Report of the President,” 1937, 38, 42 (see chap. 1, n. 3). Other institutions receiving similar support were the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council and the New York Academy of Medicine.
  22. F. Donker Duyvis, Report to members of the council of the aderation Internationale de Documentation” on his visit to the United States, The Hague, 20 August 1946, 3, 6 (Duplicated), Exchange” file, Central Administration, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (hereafter these files will be referred to as LC Collection).