Library of Congress photo of Henriette AvramHenriette Davidson Avram didn’t established out to revolutionize libraries, but which is what she did.

Born in Manhattan in 1919, Avram had visions of a job in drugs and started premedical experiments at Hunter Higher education in the 1930s. She switched gears to research mathematics at George Washington College immediately after her family relocated to the the Washington, DC place in 1951.

In 1952, Avram started doing work at the Countrywide Protection Agency, wherever her spouse Herbert Mois Avram also worked. There, she discovered pc programming as element of an early computer investigate plan, which she later explained as a “bootstrap procedure.”

Following a stint as a units analyst at Datatrol Corporation, Avram joined the Library of Congress’ Place of work of the Details Methods Professional in 1965. She was asked to guide a crew tasked with examining cataloging details to figure out if it could be computerized.

The staff formulated the MARC format, Equipment Readable Cataloging, an automated cataloging technique. Given that the mid-1800s, library bibliographic and holdings data was typewritten on playing cards, some annotated by hand. When Avram’s workforce set out to modernized it, the catalog integrated millions of guides, maps, films, and recordings. She made a way to capture the card info electronically, building a mathematical code, making use of quantities, letters, and symbols for distinctive fields of details.

MARC included the Dewey decimal procedure and other classification techniques into a central process, and the Library of Congress data was stored on magnetic tape. MARC turned the nationwide standard for digital cataloging in 1971, and Avram led seminars at libraries across the state to introduce it.

photo of Henriette Avram presenting a magnetic tape containing catalog information to Richard CowardHenriette Avram offered a magnetic tape made up of 9,300 records to the British National Bibliography’s Richard Coward in 1967. Supply: American Libraries

The format led to an global information standard, which automatic library features and enabled sharing of details electronically in between libraries. It enabled the interlibrary financial loans and searchable holdings attributes we use currently. The procedure to encode and organize details was a precursor to the World wide web.

Avram wrote the e-book, “MARC, its record and implications,” which was revealed by the Library of Congress in 1975.

Variations of the MARC system are employed about the globe, in over a dozen languages the most predominant is MARC 21, produced in 1999.

Avram also labored on the RECON Pilot Venture, which researched the retrospective conversion of documents, and led to the development of a process for structure recognition. This procedure permitted personal computers “to assign tags, indicators, subfield codes, and set-field codes to equipment-readable records” (Reference 1). It was an early case in point of a “thinking” system that was utilized to system MARC records.

Termed “a pioneer of the information age” by previous Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, Avram is credited with switching librarianship into details science. She acquired a number of best honors for librarians, which include the Margaret Mann Quotation in Cataloging and Classification from the American Library Association in 1971.

Avram retired in 1992, and been given the Distinguished Company Award from the Library of Congress. She died of most cancers on April 22, 2006.

Now you can research the Library of Congress catalog and catalogs close to the entire world thanks in part to Avram’s operate.


  1. “Mother Avram’s Exceptional Contribution”: Henriette D. Avram, American Libraries, 1989
  2. Henriette D. Avram, Modernizer of Libraries, Dies at 86, The New York Moments
  3. Henriette D. Avram Remodeled Libraries, The Washington Publish
  4. The evolving catalog, American Libraries, 2016

Relevant articles:


Also on this working day in tech background:
On Oct 7, 1806, Ralph Wedgwood received the to start with patent for carbon paper, which he invented as section of a system to assist the blind to produce.

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