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JIB is IIB in this sentence?

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From
Documentation
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Information Science

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Caught up in the excitement, the anxieties, and the pressures of our interconnected world, we can overlook the way, technology has extended human capabilities. Our tools are changing as new developments in computing and telecommunication are being announced at an increasing pace. These changes require reexamining concepts, principles, and policies that give direction to future activities to harmonize the discontinuities, to enhance the way people work, and to enable organizations to function better.

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We must assess how to enhance knowledge transfer, not just how to improve the transmission of information. The technologies may be new, the answers quite different, but the questions have been asked many times before.

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The American Society for Information Science (ASIS), which began as the American Documentation Institute (ADI) in 1937, is one of the organizations founded at the beginning of the information age. Did the ADI’s founding signal the beginning of a new profession? Organized to take advantage of micrographics, and reorganized when automated data processing was coming into its own, was the ADI driven by technology? Is it still? The answers to these questions are more complex and turned out to be much more intriguing than it would appear from a cursory examination of the literature in the field.

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The early years of the ADI coincided with the period when dissemination of documents and the organization, communication, and retrieval of information were undergoing critical changes. Technologies opened opportunities for delivering research materials to users. Libraries and information services had to reevaluate their functions. Newer and more powerful technologies allowed institutions to offer services merely envisioned earlier but which users soon came to expect.

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Prologue 2

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Like all histories, the history of ADI-ASIS does not progress in a straight line, nor is it a mosaic of bright stones that somehow turns into a recognizable image. Rather, it is a chain of events, as George Kubler wrote in another context, circumscribed by social and historical restraints that both inspire and limit men’s actions and can be recognized only in retrospect.1 The intellectual roots of ADI could be traced to ancient Greece and more directly to the Renaissance, to the men and women who were responding to contemporary challenges but were intrigued by history. They explored their spiritual inheritance, as well as the natural world.

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During the Age of Enlightenment, these explorations became more systematic. People were inquiring into man’s past. They explored remote regions and also hitherto forbidden ideas and beliefs outside the Judeo-Christian tradition. As interest in the sciences grew, practitioners sought rational explanations to what previously defied understanding by testing hypotheses through experimentation and objective observation. These investigators came to believe that through diligence and systematic work, man can penetrate the unknown and unravel the mystery of life.

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To a segment of the intellectual elite, this rational approach seemed superior, winning out over religious beliefs and church dogma. Science did not yet have all the answers but appeared less capricious than divine providence. Abandoning their creed, many became followers of a different kind of faith. Scientists had the aura of priesthood—devoted men, toiling selflessly for the benefit of humanity. The laboratory — in the words of Louis Pasteur, a remarkable scientist of the nineteenth century — was “the temple of the future. There it is that humanity grows, becomes stronger and better. There it learns to read the works of nature, symbols of progress and of universal harmony; whereas the works of man are too often those of fanaticism and destruction.”2 Watson Davis, founder of the ADI, derived his outlook from these roots.

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Over the centuries Europeans developed, or rather, invented, two different conceptions of the universe. Sometime after the Enlightenment, science and religion came to a gentlemen’s agreement: science and technology were for “the real world: machines, manufactured things, medicines, guns, moon rockets,” while “religion was for everything else, the immeasurable: morals, sacraments, poetry, insanity, death, and some residual forms of politics and statesmanship.”3 Gradually, throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a third conception of the world — what we came to call the social sciences — emerged, which did not quite fit into either category. As the end of the twentieth century approaches, the distinct boundaries separating these worlds have become blurred. Now many recognize that there

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is a unity of life. They expect scientists to work at the cutting edge of such exploration. Theologians of various religions, like Hans Kiing and F. Forrester Church, look toward science to help religion develop new metaphors for this unity of life.4

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In earlier days the belief in science was so strong that only skeptics would discuss that — despite rational analyses and systematic ways to test hypotheses — much in science has to be taken on faith. Few were aware that the long-term effects of technology are less predictable than the action of the divine. Once it was the content of phlogiston, the effluvium causing electricity, or the existence of atoms and molecules that had to be taken on faith. In more recent times, the belief that chemical substances could affect genetic traits led to significant discoveries.

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Soothsayers could not have foretold that the remarkable irrigation systems in Mesopotamia would bring about salination, destroying the soil; that typewriters introduced into offices in the nineteenth century would bring women out of the home and ultimately lead to women’s suffrage in the United States; or that Jacquard’s loom, devised to improve textile production, would eventually lead to computers.

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Not until the 1980s did we recognize that the Information Age arose from the crisis of distribution and control generated during the Industrial Age. The growth of new technologies in nineteenth century America triggered changes in manufacturing, energy production, and transportation, and also brought about the evolution of large companies. The precise interaction of machines required in industry demanded precise interaction of people and a new level of control, which was dependent on information and reciprocal communication.5

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Underlying these developments was a deep social change, as industrialization allowed more democratic use and better distribution of current knowledge. By the late nineteenth century a growth of liberal rationalism was taking place among the intellectual elite in Europe as well as among Americans. The sense of “modernism” — wishing to reinvent the world — in various fields of endeavor became a guiding force. An overall optimism about the future of mankind persisted through the 1940s despite political differences, economic crises, and major wars.

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Science flourished and, for a period reaching well into the 1960s, the scientist became a new kind of hero. The traditional hero is a person of self-achieved submission.6 Instead of princes battling gods, settlers bringing the wilderness into submission, or explorers conquering unknown continents, scientists were on a new kind of self-imposed mission. Instead of proud sailing vessels or armadas to ensure success, scientists needed laboratories to conquer the unknown and bibliographies to support their mission. The Pharmaceutisches Central-Blatt,

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which later became the Chemisches Zen tralblatt, began in 1830; the Catalogue of Scientific Papers was initiated by the Royal Society in 1851 and was later followed by the Index Catalog of the Surgeon General’s Library in the United States.

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Other major information tools made their appearance in the nineteenth century: uniform catalog cards — introduced in the British Library by Panizzi — and later the decimal classification for library collections, devised by the American, Melvil Dewey. In these times of expansionist spirit, Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine proposed a model for a universal bibliography in 1895. The ADI, organized in the mid-1930s, was inspired by their model.

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Both Otlet and La Fontaine were lawyers working on bibliographies for the Societe des Etudes Sociales et Politiques in Brussels. They became concerned about what today would be called the “softness” of the social sciences — inaccuracy of definitions, duplication of work, and unreliable data — as compared with the natural sciences. The two men believed that, as in the sciences, a registry of sociological facts was needed and that the substance of an author’s work ought to be conserved to become part of an “organism of science.”7

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When Otlet and La Fontaine examined the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) in 1894, they saw in it a tool that could be used to develop “a nomenclature for human knowledge.” Through this new language of decimal numbers communicating encoded concepts, abstractions of “pure scientific categories” would be possible, and arbitrariness would be eliminated.

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Furthermore, they believed that since DDC’s numbers were unambiguous and the indexes could be translated, this classification was ideal for international bibliographic use. To carry out their bibliographic visions, in 1895 Otlet and La Fontaine organized the International Institute of Bibliography (IIB) and proposed a Universal Bibliographic Repertory (Repertoire Bibliographique Universel, RBU) through which all recorded documents could become accessible, with an international Office of Bibliography carrying out the work. Despite some objections by Dewey, who had intended the DDC to be a tool for shelving books rather than for retrieving documents, Otlet and La Fontaine began at once to extend Dewey’s system and shape it into a Universal Decimal Classification (UDC).

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The IIB in 1932 became the International Institute of Documentation (IID); in 1937, the International Federation of Documentation (Federation Internationale de Documentation, FID); and finally, in 1986, the International Federation for Information and Documentation (but retaining FID as its acronym). The organization became important not so much for its actual accomplishments, which ultimately fell far short of the founders’ vision, but for the concepts it

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introduced. The objectives of the JIB remained models for service and were an inspiration for future generations. The universal availability of documents, for instance, has become one objective of Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and still is a major concern of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA).

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Otlet and La Fontaine also introduced the term documentation to cover all modes of recorded information, not only books and journals but also nontraditional publications, pictures, and sound recordings.

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The founders of JIB developed their ideas during a period when European high culture was in a whirl of infinite innovation, as Carl E. Schorske characterized it.8 At a time when each field of knowledge was claiming its independence from the others, Otlet and La Fontaine wanted to unify and bring about a common language to describe all the fields, making it possible to have access to all intellectual accomplishments in the world.

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The vision of Otlet and La Fontaine extended beyond the confines of librarianship and bibliography, which then were separate intellectual communities. Otlet, for instance, wanted to include “administrative documentation” in IIB’s work. The two men saw the need for an international patent office, a central office for legal documentation for comparison of all the contracts used in the world; adoption of an international bibliographical code; and other plans that were forerunners of the League of Nations’ and, later, the United Nations’ programs. They established the Union of International Organizations in 1910 to unify the various international associations and unions created since the late nineteenth century.

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Kuhn, in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions,has pointed out the importance of hypotheses and the painful struggle that precedes a change of paradigm when the data do not fit the generally accepted mode1.9 This process, however, is not restricted to science. We are rarely aware of the extent to which models of organization and of service influence our lives and guide the behavior of organizations. The way information is being used and transmitted is closely tied to organizational practices that spring from these models. Despite Otlet’s personal interest, internal information services did not become part of IIB’s activities, and administrative documentation was included only in the most cursory way in later library and information center models. Only in the last quarter of the twentieth century, when new technologies compelled reexamination of information services, has the concept of integrating all information used by an organization reemerged.

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Ironically, Otlet’s ideas, without mention of their origin, received wide circulation in the 1930s through H. G. Wells’s paper on the

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“world brain.”10 Watson Davis, founder of the ADI, was greatly influenced by the concepts of Otlet and La Fontaine, although he only partially acknowledged his intellectual debt.

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The most significant contribution of Otlet and La Fontaine was their vision of a universal bibliography through which — with the aid of a detailed and systematic classification scheme — all recorded information could be retrieved. Only gradually did it become clear that no hierarchical classification or universal bibliographic tool can satisfy all users. But with a beacon lighting the path, a variety of tools have been developed and are being improved to allow people in different walks of life to have access to the information they need. Librarians and information workers continue to strive toward the ideal of making all intellectual and spiritual contributions accessible to those who need to use them.

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A wave of remarkable social inventiveness occurred during the Great Depression in the United States, and another wave followed World War II. New organizations were developed to tie together old nations and newly independent countries. The United States was refashioning itself; the government took on support of scientific research as part of its responsibilities. Americans shared their information and expertise generously with scientists around the world.

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The ADI was part of this movement.

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NOTES

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  1. George Kubler, The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962), 49-51.
  2. Rene Dubos, The Unseen World (New York: Rockefeller Institute Press with Oxford University Press, 1962), 109-10.
  3. Lance Morrow, Fishing in the Tiber (New York: Henry Holt, 1988), 195.
  4. Morrow, Fishing in the Tiber, 199, citing Hans Kiing, 199; Church, F. Forrester, The Seven Deadly Virtues: A Guide to Purgatory for Atheists and True Believers (New York: Harper Row, 1988), 76-77.
  5. James R. Beniger, The Control Revolution: Technological and Economic Origins of the Information Society (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986).
  6. Discussed in detail in Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 2d ed. (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1972), especially chapter 1.
  7. W. Boyd Rayward, The Universe of Information: The Work of Paul Otlet for Documentation and International Organization, FID 520 (Moscow: All-Union Institute for Scientific and Technical Information [VINITI] for the International Federation of Documentation [FID], 1975), 31, 4243.
  8. Carl E. Schorske, Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (New York: Vintage Books, 1981), 13.
  9. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Phoenix Books, 1964).
  10. H. G. Wells, World Brain. (1938; reprint, Freeport, N. Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1965)