Those of us in the library community are generally aware of our premier "designing woman," the so-called "Mother of MARC," Henriette Avram. Avram designed the MAchine Reading Cataloging record in the mid-1960's, a record format that is still being used today. MARC was way ahead of its time using variable length data fields and a unique character set that was sufficient for most European languages, all thanks to Avram's vision and skill. I'd like to introduce you here to some of the designing women of the University of California library automation project, the project that created one of the first online catalogs in the beginning of the 1980's, MELVYL. Briefly, MELVYL was a union catalog that combined data from the libraries of the nine (at that time) University of California campuses. It was first brought up as a test system in 1980 and went "live" to the campuses in 1982.
Work on the catalog began in or around 1980, and various designs were put forward and tested. Key designers were Linda Gallaher-Brown, who had one of the first masters degrees in computer science from UCLA, and Kathy Klemperer, who like many of us was a librarian turned systems designer.
Kathy Klemperer was the creator of the database design diagrams that were so distinctive we called them "Klemperer-grams." Here's one from 1985:
|MELVYL database design Klemperer-gram, 1985|
|RDA "Scenario 1" data design, 2009|
While outright discrimination and harassment of women are issues that need to be addressed, the invisibility of women in the eyes of their colleagues and institutions is horribly damaging. There are many interesting projects, not the least the Wikipedia Women in Red, that aim to show that there is no lack of accomplished women in the world, it's the acknowledgment of their accomplishments that falls short. In the library profession we have many women whose stories are worth telling. Please, let's make sure that future generations know that they have foremothers to look to for inspiration.