Volume 51, Number 2 (May/Jun 2016)

A Framework for Understanding Information Ecosystems in Firms and Industries

James W. Cortada

p. 133 - 163


Information is the glue that holds together organizations and their industries. Thus understanding the information ecosystems and their infrastructures is essential if we are to appreciate how companies, government agencies, and entire industries function. Yet the role of information in companies and industries remains understudied. This article defines concepts historians should understand, discusses challenges faced in the study of business information, and suggests approaches.

Cowman’s-Eye View of the Information Ecology of the Texas: Cattle Industry from the Civil War to World War I

David B. Gracy 

p. 164 - 191


During the half-century between the American Civil War and World War I, the cattle industry, for which Texas is well known, grew from the disparate activity of hardy individuals into an industry on a business footing comparable to that of industries of similar magnitude. In the process, the management of information became as central to the rise of the industry as the breeding of meatier stock. Information literacy rested as much on the ability of cowboys to read brands and “sign” as on office workers to control documentation. The industry developed a language of brands and vocabulary for managing cattle and created the new information-worker position of brand inspector. The information-driven transformation was accomplished within the working lives of cowmen who both led and were profoundly affected by it.

The Value Proposition of the Corporate Library, Past and Present

Alistair Black and Henry Gabb

p. 192 - 225


Corporate libraries of the kind we would recognize today began to appear around the turn of the twentieth century. They were a response to a rapidly changing corporate and commercial environment, acting as adjuncts to both the rise of systematic industrial research and the office management revolution that accompanied the implementation of scientific management. A survey of American corporate libraries in 1916 by the British manufacturer Rowntree and Company provides a snapshot of their operations and perceived value. The survey was repeated with a selection of today’s corporate librarians. Their responses are strikingly similar to those of their early twentieth-century counterparts, despite intervening technological change. As it was a century ago, the value of the corporate library, even if it cannot be quantified, is accepted.

Generations of Business Information, 1937–2012: Moving from Data Bits to Intelligence

Andrew Gross and Emeric Solymossy

p. 226 - 248


In this article, we investigate the collection, organization, and dissemination of business information during the past seventy-five years. Transforming millions of “data bits” to intelligence for better decision making remains a challenge. However, we have come a long way since the late 1930s by building databases, connecting nodes and networks, and constantly upgrading the quality of business information. Classification schemes, search techniques, retrieval methods, delivery speed, and storage capacity have all increased exponentially. The key forces contributing to such transformation were public-private cooperation, the dedication of pioneers who “grew the field,” and the entrepreneurial ventures of data consolidators and research agencies. The social, economic, and organizational forces brought about changes that were coupled with the requisite technology; this paved the way for the creation of the Internet, the World Wide Web, and many related features that range from mobile communication to visualization techniques.

Technology in Architectural Practice: Transforming Work with Information, 1960s–1990s

Katie Pierce Meyer

p. 249 - 266


Architects began using computers to create architectural drawings in the 1960s. Since then, the development of computer-aided design (CAD) programs and, more recently, building information modeling (BIM) software in the architecture, engineering, and construction industries have changed the way architects create drawings, store information, and communicate intentions. This historical analysis will address information in the architecture industry and consider the development of CAD and BIM in the changing use of information in architecture by drawing on architectural theory and industry publications. The adoption of various computer technologies for architectural practice since the 1960s highlights how the ability to effectively manage and communicate complex information remains a central responsibility of an architect.

The Literature of American Library History, 2012–2013

Edward A. Goedeken

p. 267 - 298


It has been nearly fifty years since the first issue of the Journal of Library History rolled off the press at Florida State University. The journal’s inaugural issue appeared in January 1966, and within two years Michael Harris had crafted the first review of historical writings in “The Year’s Work in American Library History, 1967.”1 This essay, therefore, follows a hallowed tradition of nearly a half century whereby the writings on American library history are surveyed and commented upon.2 Each time the survey is published, I am surprised that despite the relatively small space historical scholarship occupies on the library and information science stage, a remarkable number of books and articles are consistently generated dealing with the broad expanse of topics that concern our discipline. Easily over 150 items appeared over the past two years that deserve attention within the pages that follow. I have maintained the traditional subject rubrics, although this time I added a category called the "History of Information" which reflects the burgeoning literature devoted to that rather amorphous and still developing aspect of our historical pantheon.

This issue can be found on Project MUSE