Friday, May 05, 2006

Henriette D. Avram, Modernizer of Libraries, Dies at 86

Henriette D. Avram, Modernizer of Libraries, Dies at 86. One of my colleagues here at Central Michigan University (Beth Macleod) pointed out this recent obituary from the New York Times. (Free Registration is required to view the full article.)

Note this section, "It was not a job for the faint-hearted. The catalog comprised millions of items — books, maps, films, sound recordings and more — in hundreds of languages, many using non-Roman alphabets. The cards for each item contained many discrete pieces of information (including author, title, publisher and place of publication), each of which would need to be represented with a separate mathematical algorithm. To translate the cards into something a computer could digest, understand and share, Mrs. Avram also had to enter the mind of the library cataloger, a profession whose arcane knowledge — involving deep philosophical questions about taxonomy, interconnectedness and the nature of similarity and difference — was guarded like priestly ritual."

Wow, cataloging and librarianship as a priestly ritual! I almost regret that B I got in library school when I had to take cataloging. I bet my obit does not sound as exciting when I die.

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