by adam mathes
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Otlet Day Two

[See Otlet Day One for a brief introduction of sorts.]

“Hitherto the library has been a museum of books. Works were preserved in libraries because they were precious objects. Librarians were keepers. Such establishments were not organised primarily for the use of documents. Moreover, their outmoded regulations if they did not exclude the most modern forms of publication at least did not admit them. They have poor collections of journals; collections of newspapers are nearly nonexistent; photographs, films, phonograph discs have no place in them, nor do film negatives, microscopic slides and many other “documents.” The subject catalogue is considered seconadry in the library so long as there is a good register for administrative purposes. Thus there is little possibility of developing repertories in the library, htat is to say of taking publications to pieces and redistributing them in a more directly and quickly accessible form. For want of personnel to arrange them, there has not even been a place for the cards that are receieved already printed.

The Office of Documentation, on the contrary, is conceived of in such a way as to achieve all that is lacking in the library. Collections of books are the necessary basis for it but books, far from being considered as finished products, are simply materials which must be developed more fully. This development consists in establishing the connections each individual book has with all the other books and forming from them all what might be called The Universal Book. It is for this that we use repertories: bibliographic repertories; repertories of documentary dossiers gathering pamphlets and extracts together by subject; catalogues; chronological repertories of facts or aphabetical ones of names; encyclopedic repertories of scientific, of lawas, of patents, of physical and technical constants, of statistics, etc. All of these repertories will be set up according to the method described above and arranged by the same universal classification.”

  • Paul Otlet

[Otlet, Paul. (1920). “The International Organization of Bibliography and Documentation.” In Rayward, W. Boyd (trans and ed.) (1990). The International Organization and Dissemination of Knowledge: Selected Essays of Paul Otlet. Amsterdam: Elsevier.]

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