Beyond American memory : Technologies of library and office automation and their impact on multimedia computing for public education in the United States, 1963–present
Tahir Sohail Sandhu, Illinois State University, United States
Doctor of Arts, Illinois State University . Awarded
On-line Public Access Catalogs (OPACs) were constructed by the active cooperation among the library community (the Council on Library Resources, CLR, the Library of Congress, LC), the engineering establishment (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center, PARC), and the United States federal government to provide access to bibliographic records, in digital formats, to patrons of all libraries.
A review of canonical histories of computing and a review of literature on library and office automation make it plain that soon after OPACs became operational the national campaign of computer literacy began. The campaign of computer literacy had a direct impact on how history professors, media consultants, and social studies teachers in public schools viewed microcomputers as educational devices—as a database management tool to organize facts for historical inquiry and for higher-order critical thinking. During the 1990s, technophiles argued that multimedia microcomputers could also assist young students to learn how to use primary sources as a foundation for hypotheses framing while simultaneously using primary sources to verify existing hypotheses in history and social studies. The microcomputer had become a multimedia learning technology at a time when the second wave of educational restructuring (1986–1991) in the United States had entered into creating human and technological networks of Professional Development School (PDS) sites to improve teaching.
This dissertation, therefore, reviews canonical histories of computing and library and office automation in the United States. The review offers a consistent pattern of cooperation among the library community, the engineering establishment, and the federal government. This cooperation led first to automation of library services—OPACs—to provide access to bibliographic records in machine-readable environment during the 1980s, then led to the construction of the National Research and Education Network (NREN) during the 1990s. NREN served as a prototype of then-future broadband backbone network (currently the vBNS) for providing access to multimedia information in electronic formats to preservice teachers at networks of PDS sites.
This dissertation, then, maintains that the educational restructuring to carve PDS from the human and technological networks became possible against the backdrop of library and office automation that had given rise to enabling technologies—databases, telecommunications networks, and Graphical User Interface (GUI)—that brought multimedia information to the desk-tops of preservice teachers in the United States. Against this backdrop, a discourse about learning had also emerged during the two waves of educational restructuring. Hence, the perception that multimedia computing was a learning technology for public education is indeed linked to library and office automation in the United States. Educational historiography has not paid much attention to this, thus far. This dissertation points out that an extensive historical review of developments related to library and office automation reveals that the two waves of educational reforms became possible at a time when a long-term cooperation among the library community (CLR, LC), the engineering establishments (MIT, PARC), and the federal government had constructed interlibrary networks that would supply bibliographic and full-text multimedia information in machine-readable formats to patrons of all libraries in the United States, including preservice teachers at PDSs. In the near future, multimedia educational and administrative software will be supplied to networks of PDSs through a national, regional, state, and local information infrastructure called the Internet2, which would provide connectivity among networks of PDS sites and the virtual electronic spaces called GigaPOPs where multimedia software will actually be stored.
Sandhu, T.S. Beyond American memory : Technologies of library and office automation and their impact on multimedia computing for public education in the United States, 1963–present. Doctor of Arts thesis, Illinois State University.
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