German were published in 1932. Goldberg used
this device to keep track of his business correspondence until he was kidnapped by Nazi thugs
in 1933 and became a refugee.
Starting in 1938, an American engineer tried to
build a faster version without a movie gate, calling
it a Microfilm Rapid Selector. It didn’t work very
well, but in 1945 he published a essay speculating
on what might be done with a desktop microfilm
reader with a search engine. The essay was “As We
May Think,” and the author was Vannevar Bush.
That it was based on technology developed and
patented by Emanuel Goldberg nearly two decades
earlier was never acknowledged. Experts knew
that the ideas presented by Bush were not new,
but they were new to most readers, and Bush—not
Goldberg—has been cited incessantly ever since.
Goldberg was unlucky in that regard. Nonfiction
works on espionage still attribute Goldberg’s
microdot technique to an imaginary Professor
Zapp as the authority of a misleading article by J.
Edgar Hoover in the April 1946 Reader’s Digest. His
successor at Zeiss Ikon took credit for the Contax,
and Goldberg’s role as the founding CEO was
excluded from successive Zeiss corporate histories
as late as 2000.
Suzanne Briet (1894-1989) was part of a group
of activists who transformed library services
in France between the two World Wars. She
was interested in the role of librarians and bib-liographical services as an interface mediating
between individuals and available literature. Briet
was one of the first women librarians appointed
to the French National Library at a time when
bibliographies and reference works were shelved
along with everything else in inaccessible closed
stacks. She was given the assignment of establishing a reference room, which opened in 1934 and
contained a catalog and the most useful reference
works and bibliographies. She organized supplementary indexing and developed a bibliographic
advisory service with staff trained to assist
Designing cost-effective systems for discovery
was then called “documentation,” and in Europe,
specialized, proactive librarians were called “
documentalists.” Briet was very active in professional
associations and in attempts to develop professional education for documentalists. As the first
director of studies in 1951 at the National Institute
for Techniques for Documentation (still flourish-
ing in Paris), she has some claim to the distinction
of first “i-School” dean.
Briet was, in a way, Otlet’s successor as theorist of documentation. In 1951 she published
a remarkable manifesto called Qu’est-ce que la
Documentation?, only recently available in an
English translation as What Is Documentation?, with
commentary by Ron Day and a brief biography.
Briet adopts a semiotic view, defining documents
as indexical signs exposing an unlimited horizon
of networks of techniques, technologies, individuals, and institutions. Documents are increasingly
substitutes for lived experience; documentation is
a cultural necessity of modernity.
Briet’s manifesto received little attention and,
probably discouraged by resistance to innovation,
she retired early in 1954 and turned to scholarly
studies of the history of northern France and
the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud. She died in 1989,
largely forgotten until a recent renewal of interest
in her manifesto.
Briet had a poetic description of an interactive
interface. The dynamic, mediating role of a docu-mentalist involved both guidance from the person
being helped and specialized abilities in locating
what that person wanted. So the documental-ist should be “comme un chien du chasseur—guidé et
guidant”: like a hunter’s dog—guided and guiding.
All four of the individuals spotlighted in this article contributed to the tools, methods, and theory
we take for granted today, yet all four remain
relatively forgotten. Please, take a minute to recall
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Michael Buckland
worked as a librarian in England and has also been
a library educator and academic administrator in
Britain and the U.S. He is interested in the redesign
of library services in a digital, network environment
and in the history of bibliography and documenta-
tion. Recent work includes the biography Emanuel Goldberg and
his Knowledge Machine (Libraries Unlimited, 2006). He is currently
emeritus professor, School of Information and co-director,
Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative, University of California, Berkeley.
He served as president of the American Society for Information
Science and Technology in 1998. For more information visit, http://
Alex Wright. “The Web
Time Forgot.” New York
Times, June 17, 2008.
“Alle Kennis van de
of Paul Otlet).
Documentary film, 1998.
Rayward’s Otlet Page.
P. Otlet. International
Elsevier, 1990. http://
See the website of
Thomas Hapke, http://
M. Buckland. Emanuel
Goldberg and His
Santa Barbara: Libraries
S. Briet. What Is
Scarecrow Press, 2006.
Translation of Qu’est-ce
que la documentation
(EDIT, Paris, 1951),
See Ron Day’s Briet
webpage at http://ella.
briet.htm for a brief
on documentation as
and a selective list of
Briet’s writings, along
with other material.
November + December 2009
© 2009 ACM 1072-5220/09/1100 $10.00