Throwback Thuesday: Application of a telereference system to divisional library card catalogs

Application of a telereference system to divisional library card catalogs

This is an artist’s conception of a proposal to make the card catalog viewable from divisional libraries elsewhere on campus through a closed-circuit TV system. Here are some quotes from “Application of a telereference system to divisional library card catalogs : a feasibility analysis : final report” explaining it.


On October 2, 1957, a proposal was submitted to the Council on Library Resources by a manufacturer of closed-circuit television equipment for design and construction of a prototype, remotely controlled, catalog card viewing system. The proposed “Telereference”* system would permit a researcher to view catalog cards in a central catalog from a remote location by the use of closed-circuit television and a remotely controlled card manipulator.

This idea had considerable appeal to the University of Michigan as a possible means of extending the service of the central catalog to divisional and branch library users, perhaps eliminating the cost of maintaining duplicate card catalogs in library units located outside the General Library Building.

Dr. Frederick H. Wagman, Director of the University Library of the University of Michigan, offered the cooperation of the library staff should the Council on Library Resources desire to study this library system as a test case in determining the feasibility of the proposed equipment.


The Operations Research Department of the University of Michigan Engineering Research Institute was consulted concerning such an analysis. A proposal submitted by this department on December 9, 1957, to the Council on Library Resources resulted in the present study project which commenced on February 1, 1958.

The purpose of this study was to determine the feasibility of the Telereference equipment based on a determination of the amount of equipment needed and any cost savings which might result from installing this equipment in the University Library system at the University of Michigan to replace the card catalogs in divisional libraries. The study was not

intended to discover the extent to which scholarship and library use might be facilitated by the availability in each divisional library of the complete catalog in addition to existing divisional library catalogs.


The use of Telereference equipment to replace divisional library card catalogs in the University Library system at the University of Michigan cannot be justified solely on the basis of savings in direct costs as a result of eliminating divisional library card catalogs. The direct, cost savings would cover only approximately 50% of the cost of maintaining the necessary Telereference equipment, not considering the original equipment investment required.

Source: David Fulmer, Flickr



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