Computerized library catalogs are in the process of being translated from the realm of a distant idea to that everyday fact. On the basis of painstaking and detailed investigations, this study recommends the automation of the catalogs of all but the smallest libraries. Once the main catalog has been put in machine—readable form, the study maintains, it could be used to produce printed book catalogs and special-purpose bibliographies; this same data base could be used as well for continuing studies of the contents of the library to ensure more efficient management of the collection.
This publication is a complete feasibility study. Beginning with an analysis of the basic cost factors involved in automation—including cost to the user, the cost of computer programming and hardware, and the cost of conversion of retrospective and current catalog files—and making note of the hidden costs of the card catalog system, the study goes on to discuss the usefulness of computerized catalogs once installed. Data from a random sample of the shelf list of a medium-sized university library are used. Numerical methods for determining useful ratios between the size of library files and the number of entry fields are given and applied to the use of machine-readable catalog data in the production of bibliographies.
Library growth is of singular importance in determining the cost and utility of computerizing library catalogs and discussed at length and in various forms, including a comparison of library growth with the growth of the gross national product of nations belonging to the major language groups of the world.