Henriette Avram, the creator of MARC who through her efforts helped to make possible library automation that we use today died on this day in 2006. I especially enjoyed this about the daunting task of automating library data from her obituary in the New York Times:
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.
"A big challenge would be just understanding what goes on in this world of cataloging because it’s a really complicated world," Allyson Carlyle, an associate professor at the Information School at the University of Washington, said in an interview. "It’s something that’s passed from generation to generation; there’s still a lot of unwritten practice."
The pilot project was finished in 1968, and, starting the next year, bibliographic records were dispatched on magnetic tape to libraries around the country. In 1971, Marc became the national standard for electronic cataloging; it was named the international standard two years later. Mrs. Avram retired from the Library of Congress in 1992 as associate librarian for collections services.