The Inner Workings of the Library, 1966: Part 1

A couple of weeks ago I came across a great series of pictures of the library at work in the middle of the 1960s. I’m going to split them into two parts, one of images that I mostly understand and then this second one, which I don’t. These all apparently have something to do with the activity of the front desk but I never lived through this iteration of library technology (I was still a wee lass) so they are rather puzzling.  I don’t know what the print-out in the first picture is for, I don’t know what that dial in the second picture is for, and I only included the last photo because the man at the desk in the second photo seems to be holding one of the cards you can see piled up in the third:

Fondren inner 4

Fondren inner 6

Fondren inner 5

As always, your aid is greatly appreciated.

Bonus: I’m not quite done with Christmas.


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21 Responses to The Inner Workings of the Library, 1966: Part 1

  1. C Kelly says:

    I think the graph machine is tracking temperature and humidity in the building to ensure they are within optimal ranges for storing books and paper. Can’t say much about the print out.

  2. effegee says:

    The dial in the second picture is a temperature / humidity recorder. Paper disk turns, either on a 24-hour or 7-day cycle, the silver arms each are tipped with a pen point filled with liquid ink that marks the paper disk as it turns. One arm does temperature; the other humidity. Once a day or week, the paper disk is replaced with a new one and ink is added to to the pen with an eyedropper. The same kind of device was used in other temperature/humidity-sensitive environments such as computer facilities.

  3. The dial in the second photo looks like a temperature recorder. You can still get them with circular charts, though they are electronic now. You probably have one in the archives at Woodson.

    The “desk” in the third photo is an IBM 029 Key Punch. You type on it and it punches Hollerith cards. It was introduced in 1964.

    Since there are shelves of books behind the (obviously posed) third photo, they may have been digitizing the library catalog. You can tell it is posed because she is looking into space rather than keypunching from copy.

    • Mark Williamson says:

      In that third picture, isn’t she looking at the spines of the books on the cart?

      I also note that the Hollerith cards in the second picture are (a) plain cards printed with 80 columns worth of digits (instead of the logo-printed cards in the third picture) and (b) unpunched. I think they were being used as note cards, a common practice among those with access to them. (I always used to have a few in my shirt pocket along with pens in multiple colors.)

  4. effegee says:

    The Hollerith cards and listing are likely the library’s circulation system of the time. When a book was checked out, the ID card information and book number would have been recorded, then punched onto the cards. The cards were read by a program that produced lists of books circulating, overdue books, fines owed, etc. IIRC, the list was consulted when a student checked out a book to see how many books the student currently had checked out or if fines were owed.

    By 1969, Rice ID cards had the student’s ID number Hollerith-punched into the card and each book that was allowed to circulate had one of the Hollerith cards in a pocket in the book. When a book was checked out, the student’s ID card and the book’s card were inserted at the same time into a device that recorded the information (in the holes) from both onto (I THINK…) magnetic tape, eliminating the punching of the circulation records (unless the reader was broken in which case the process reverted to the older manual process).

    • I remember that card system, but I don’t know if it was from my undergraduate days at Rice, or if it was from my high school or middle school research expeditions to Fondren. I also remember using the bound printout at the circulation desk to see if a book had come back in, and that would have been after fall of 1972 when I was enrolled at Rice. I would not have been in the library often enough to use that before I was an undergrad.

      My mother introduced me to Fondren when I was 12. She was not a Rice alum, but she worked at M.D. Anderson as a research chemist for a number of years and got in the habit of using Fondren to support her work back in the early 50’s.

  5. effegee says:

    Nice tractor… A/C in the summer, heater in the winter?

  6. effegee says:

    The keypunch picture may have been taken in Acquisitions where additions would have been marked with call numbers, “property of…”, checkout pocket, etc. At some point, a card would have been punched containing call number, author, title, and such.

  7. Jerry Outlaw says:

    The first picture is of the more or less “Reserved” section which was to the left of general circulation as you entered the front door. Professors put books which were needed for a class, but which were in short supply in the library, in that section so no one would hoard them for a semester. They could be checked out for a couple of hours but could not leave the building. I worked for that lady for two years but can’t remember her name. Her son was in Baker and graduated in 65 or 66. The man in the in second picture is James Mayfield, who was head librarian for a while, and an “interesting” character to say the least.

  8. Marie Brannon says:

    The keypunch machine was located right behind the circulation desk, between it and the RICE offices. There was a little room across from the machine where books to be shelved were sorted and put on trucks that student workers took to the various floors. This lady is keypunching all the returns into the system. At the end of every day, or first thing every morning, the printout on the desk was updated. It was arranged by call number. This meant people could look up a call number and see if the book they wanted was still checked out or back on the shelf, saving them a trip upstairs if they were in search of a particular title. Seems to me the dark-haired lady’s name was Helen, but don’t quote me on that. Love the photos

  9. Carolyn Brewer says:

    First photo. I believe that is Elda Brewer (Mrs. Benjamin E. Brewer Sr.) Rice Grad of about 1930, mother of 3 Rice Grads: Ben Jr., Christine, & Paul.

  10. mjthannisch says:

    Are student number still the social with an added digit?

  11. Kathy says:

    Another possibility for the printout is a listing of periodicals. I seem to remember when I worked at the Library in the later ’60’s and ’70’s that we had a printout like that with periodical titles and the dates of the Library’s holdings. So if you needed an article from a 1955 issue of IEEE Journal of Whatever, you’d look in the printout to see if we had that journal in that year. Library research is SO much easier now!

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