E-JASL: The Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship


Date of this Version


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Journal of Southern Academic and Special Librarianship (February 2000) 1(3). ISSN: 1525-321X. Also available at http://southernlibrarianship.icaap.org/content/v01n03/olmstadt_w01.html.


Copyright 2000, the author. Used by permission.


There is little question that computers have profoundly changed how information professionals work. The process of cataloging and classifying library materials was one of the first activities transformed by information technology. The introduction of the MARC format in the 1960s and the creation of national bibliographic utilities in the 1970s had a lasting impact on cataloging. In the 1980s, the affordability of microcomputers made the computer accessible for cataloging, even to small libraries. This trend toward automating library processes with computers parallels a broader societal interest in the use of computers to organize and store information. Following World War II, military personnel and scientists began to experiment with computers in all areas of their work, giving birth to computer science. As this field advanced, researchers began to wonder if computers might be programmed to simulate human intelligence. If so, the benefits could be extraordinary. These attempts to impart human reasoning and thought to computer software formed the basis for artificial intelligence (AI) studies, and dovetailed nicely with a growing interest in cognitive psychology.

Artificial intelligence research today focuses on several areas, including natural language processing, computer learning, computer vision, problem solving, and expert systems. It is the last of these that has received the most attention in librarianship in the last two decades. Expert systems were proposed and created for reference service, acquisitions, vendor management, and cataloging. Unfortunately, Sauperl and Saye3 show that the development of cataloging expert systems has practically ceased. This frenzy of publication about expert systems, followed by a rather sudden decline, warrants investigation.