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This book examines the emergence of documentation/information science in the United States through the activities of the American Society for Information Science (ASIS). It traces the origin of ASIS in post-World War I Washington, the beginning of the organization in the 1930s as the American Documentation Institute (ADI), and its early activities. The work then explores the remarkable organization of science and technology during World War II that affected scientific communication, and follows the activities in the post-war era, which led to ADI’s reorganization as a professional society in 1952. The last chapter sketches ADI’s critical period following the reorganization and concludes with a look at the organization and the profession as the 1990s begin.

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The main action in this work takes place in the United States at a time of unprecedented growth of science and a deepening of scholarship. This growth brought about a crisis in scientific and scholarly communication in the 1930s and led to an upheaval of traditional scientific communication in the 1940s. To alleviate the situation and to serve their constituencies better, scientists, scholars, librarians, and archivists turned to still imperfect technologies that never before had been used for scientific and scholarly publication. The ADI, under its founder, Watson Davis, was at the forefront in providing non-traditional services, making use of the newly emerging microfilm technology. His ideal was to make all the information necessary for scientists and scholars available to them regardless of their location. That ideal, expressed earlier by Otlet and La Fontaine, has since been espoused by Unesco and other international organizations.

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While ADI/ASIS has changed profoundly since the 1930s, the model of service is still important to its members involved in operations. The focus originally was to provide information for research. Changes in

Introduction  viii

societal expectations, together with advances in computing and telecommunication, also extended the scope of ASIS activities to all aspects of information collection, management, storage, use, and communication.

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This book is not a history of documentation or of information science. It is confined to ADI-ASIS and its emergence as a professional society. Therefore, some important contributors to the field are not even mentioned, and organizations important to documentation and information science in the United States are discussed only as they touch on ADI activities.

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No agreement has been reached on a definition of documentation nor of information science. In this book, I have taken a sociological point of view and have considered documentalists and information scientists to be those individuals who sensed a common bond in the work they were carrying out: collecting, organizing, announcing, and disseminating information; and seeking a firmer foundation for this work.

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This study began with my interest in ASIS and in information science — still undefined in the 1970s. The history of ASIS also seemed to offer a good vehicle through which to explore the beginnings of an emerging profession. When, as a director of ASIS, I wanted to find out how the society’s current activities tied in with the original objectives of the organization, I was astounded that even the most active ASIS members knew little of its history. Only a few sketches had been published about the organization. Claire K. Schultz wrote two articles, the first with Paul Garwig in 1969, and the second in 19761; Jesse H. Shera and Donald B. Cleveland prepared a review chapter, History and Foundations of Information Science, that touched briefly on ADI’s early history but had not yet been published.2

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Some early ADI activities were recorded in the Journal of Documentary Reproduction during its brief existence. After 1950 the institute’s activities were reported in American Documentation and later in other publications. Except for a collection of the minutes of the board of trustees, the ASIS offices in Washington, D.C., had only a few documents from the beginnings of the organization. The oral tradition of the early decades turned out to be completely unreliable.

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Through my professional work and my activities in various ASIS committees, I was fortunate not only to have known the people active in the information field but also to have met some of those who played a role in the long forgotten past of the ADI. Through them, I gained access to papers in various archival collections and private papers. Luther H. Evans, for instance, allowed me to explore the rich collections of his private papers in addition to his public papers as librarian of Congress, which enhanced my understanding of the work in the

Introduction ix

1930s and later years. Private discussions as well as recorded interviews with people who played a significant role in the society or in information science, sharpened my insights.

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Tracing the threads of the fabric of ASIS, my research led to totally unexpected findings about its early years and the critical forces that shaped the organization. The search became intriguing as I waded through the still unorganized Science Service collection of the Archives of the Smithsonian Institution. Only after combining my findings from these documents with those from other archives did a more complete picture emerge, as I pieced together the meandering development of the ADI from its unique beginnings to a scientific-professional society. I discovered relationships between institutions and cooperation by people not known to today’s information professionals. Whenever possible, I let the participants’ voices be heard.

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Much of this book is based on these documents. Since no other history of this type exists, and some of the documents are becoming more fragile, I decided to provide more detail in this book about the early years, omitting, with regret, a more detailed history of later decades.

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It is a pleasure to acknowledge people and organizations that were of particular assistance. Naturally, all the weaknesses in this work are my own. Because I obtained more data by examining a large number of documents and interviewing principals, my findings, as can be expected, differ at times from other writings on the history of ADI.

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I want to express my deep appreciation to a number of individuals who played important roles in ADI or the information field and who spent considerable time sharing their recollections with me. Some helped open the doors to archival materials. Access to the Archives of the Smithsonian Institution (which hold the unorganized collection of Science Service documents); the files at the American Society for Information Science; the Central Administration files at the Library of Congress; the Joint Committee on Materials for Research; the American Council of Learned Societies, the (closed) Luther H. Evans, and the Waldo Gifford Leland collections in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress were most valuable. I appreciated interviews with Keyes D. Metcalf, Eugene B. Power, and Laurence B. Heilprin, who also gave me access to their private papers (at the Harvard University Archives, the Michigan Historical Collection/Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, and the Archives, University of Maryland Library, respectively).

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I am grateful for discussions with Calvin N. Mooers, who gave me access to his workbooks and other personal papers; to Madeline M. Berry Henderson, Eugene B. Jackson, Claire K. Schultz, and Judith A.

Introduction  x

Werdel for discussions and their generous loans of relevant documents in their possession.

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I must express my appreciation to several other individuals (to some, regrettably, posthumously) for their interest and for valuable discussions and interviews: Scott Adams, Burton Adkinson, Luther Evans, Herman Fussler, Robert Hayes, Karl Heumann, Manfred Kochen, Frank McKenna, Eugene E. Miller, Charlotte Davis Mooers, Jerrold Orne, Jesse Shera, Gerald Sophar, Vernon Tate, and Harold Wooster.

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Archival materials, which are so difficult to access, are fully cited, with the cooperation of the publisher, Greenwood Press, and its editorial staff. Full references are in the notes. One full citation is given, with pointers in later references to the appropriate note. Also, to avoid repetition, when a document is cited throughout a section it will be mentioned in the first paragraph.

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I owe special gratitude to W. Boyd Rayward, now at the University of New South Wales, Australia, for his concern about the research and advice on my earlier dissertation, the encouragement of Hyman Muslin, and the interest of and discussions with Fritz Veit and Barbara Flood. Thanks also go to Diane Ruda11 for help with the manuscript. Work on this book was supported by Arthur L. Conn ,GZ Associates, Ltd.

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Finally, my deep appreciation goes to my husband, Arthur Conn, for his interest in the research and for his support throughout.

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  1. Claire K. Shultz and Paul Garwig, History of the American Documentation Institute — A Sketch, American Documentation 20 (April 1969): 156 and Schultz, ASIS: Notes on its Founding and Development. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science 2 (March 1976): 49-51.
  2. Jesse H. Shera and Donald B. Cleveland, History and Foundations of Information Science in (1972) Annual Reviews of Information Science and Technology, vol. 12, ed. by Martha Williams. White Plains, N.Y.: Knowledge Industry Publications for the American Society for Information Science.
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AAAS American Association for the Advancement of Science
ACS American Chemical Society
ACLS American Council of Learned Societies
AD American Documentation
ADD Air Document Division (Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio)
ADI American Documentation Institute
ADI Annual Meeting, year Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the American meeting held in the year indicated
ADI BT Date Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the American Documentation Institute meeting on the date indicated
ADI PNL President’s Newsletter. Distributed to members of the American Documentation Institute
ADRC Air Documents Research Center (London)
AEC Atomic Energy Commission
ALA American Library Association
ALA Bulletin Bulletin of the American Library Association
ARL Association of American Research Libraries
ASIS American Society for Information Science
ASIS HQ American Society for Information Science, files, Washington, D.C.
ASTIA Armed Services Technical Information Agency
Bulletin of the ASIS Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science
CADO Central Air Documents Office (Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio)
DDC Dewey Decimal Classification
DDSS Documentation Division of Science Service
DISS Documentation Institute of Science Service
E. B. Power The University of Michigan/Bentley Collection Historical Library, Michigan Historical Collections, Eugene Barnum Power Collection, Ann Arbor, Michigan
FID International Federation of Documentation
GSIS Group for Standardization of nformation Services
IC International Catalogue of Scientific Literature Classification
JIB International Institute of Bibliography
IID International Institute of Documentation (became FID in 1937)
IFLA International Federation of Library Associations
JCMR Collection Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Joint Committee on Materials for Research Collection, Washington, D.C.
Journal of the ASIS Journal of the American Society of Information Science
JDR Journal of Documentary Reproduction
KDM Collection Harvard University Archives. Keyes D. Metcalf Papers. Cambridge, Massachusetts
L.C. Collection Library of Congress, Central Administration Files, Washington, D.C.
MLA Medical Library Association
NACA National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics
NDRC National Defense Research Committee
NRS Library of Congress. Navy Research Section
NTIS National Technical Information Service
ONR Office of Naval Research
OSRD Office of Scientific Research and Development
OSS Office of Strategic Services
OTS Office of Technical Services
RCBB Root, Clark, Buckner and Ballantine (law firm)
SA Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7091, Science Service Collection, Washington, D.C.
SLA Special Libraries Association
UDC Universal Decimal Classification
USDA United States Department of Agriculture
W. G. Leland Collection Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Waldo Gifford Leland Collection, Washington, D.0
WPA Works Progress Administration
WRU Western Reserve University (now Case-Western Reserve University