Oral History with Robert M. Hayes

Chapter member Sarah Buchanan conducted an oral history interview on August 5, 2010 with Robert M. Hayes, who founded the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Documentation Institute (ADI) in 1961. The transcript is available here as a PDF.

Transcript of Oral History Interview with Robert M. Hayes (rhayes@ucla.edu) Conducted by Sarah A. Buchanan (sarahab@ucla.edu)

Date: Thursday, August 5, 2010, 10:30 a.m. (telephone)

Interview prepared by SB, approved by RH on June 27, 2011.

SB, via email Aug. 4: “We have the topics I mentioned, here for your convenience:

  • founding of the Los Angeles Chapter of ADI
  • issues you saw as significant in the community (ca. 1961-)
  • microfilm (use at UCLA?, Los Angeles), technology
  • leadership of UC’s Institute for Library Research
  • any programs you participated in for LACADI (continuing education) / teaching at UCLA
  • first Chapter officers in Los Angeles 1961 (yourself, Martha Boaz chair-elect, Don Black secretary, Ron Segel treasurer, Nel Steinmetz Chapter Representative, H.W. Jones publications editor, Hal Borko program chair, and Jim Reidy membership)
  • organization of Chapter meetings, the first election process
  • communication with ADI headquarters on role of the Los Angeles Chapter, communications between members
  • your contributions nationally and internationally
  • later changes (Informer-OASIS newsletter, ADI to ASIS to ASIS&T, programs on topics)”

Start of interview:

SB: I’m writing about the history of information science, specifically in Los Angeles, and focusing on the L.A. Chapter – its role in the community and providing continuing education often on technology topics. Briefly, the ASIS&T History Fund is supporting historical investigations in the field. These are just some suggested topics, I’m grateful for your time today and we can also continue our conversation through email, if we recall any related issues at a later date.

RH: I got my Ph.D. in math in 1952, and started in the computer business in 1948. I took my first and only course in programming from a very famous woman: Admiral Grace Hopper. she became admiral in U.S. Navy, and created COBOL – a common business operating language. I started in the computer business, and worked at the UCLA Institute for Numerical Analysis as a Ph.D. student. When I received my degree, I did not go into academic work, I went into industry. In 1954-1955 I joined Magnavox company (in the radio business), which had contracts with the CIA and NSA intelligence community. My job was to try to develop computer applications that would fit the needs of their clients. This was where it all started: the needs of information. [Magnavox] had started their projects in the late 1940s, work which led to the development of

Minicard as a subcontractor to Eastman Kodak. [In essence,] they had small stamp sized microfilm cards. Each card would hold 22 things: a set of document images and a set of binary coded identifiers. Like a catalog record. But these were in black and white dots on this microchip (Minicard). The Kodak equipment would handle those cards and scan the binary coded data.

Magnavox equipment would process that data in order to select the card. At the time, technology of information retrieval was based on optical coincidence: the “matching holes” means for searching was very primitive. You need a word as your primary search term and it would match dots on the microchip and allow you to select that chip. Having selected it, it would have to make a copy of the information on that chip. The “information retrieval” business people didn’t understand what the computer could do. But myself with Magnavox: I learned how to program the computer not to simply match, but to PROCESS the digital data on the card with the digital data on the request. Not just matching, but processing. In 1958 based on this work, I gave a course on information storage and retrieval at UCLA. It was 50 people for two weeks, five days  a week. Most were from Washington, D.C. That course started my career. I gave the course three times in D.C., five times at the University of Washington, once at Georgia Tech University, once at an Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio. So a dozen times over the ensuing two-to-three years.

In 1959, I formed my own company, Advanced Information Systems, and I was President. My partner John Postley worked at the RAND Corporation. He left RAND, and we had a successful company, and it sold in 1964 to the Howard Hughes Tool Company, the parent company. I joined UCLA as a faculty professor in the School of Library Service.

SB: Tell me about the founding of the Los Angeles Chapter of ADI.

RH: I played a role, but not the creative or dominant role. There were lots [of people] in LAM [local area multicomputer], system development, TRW Thompson Ramo Wooldridge. The first company I worked for was the Hughes Aircraft Company in Culver City. TRW worked for them at a high level. When [Howard] Hughes got in trouble with the federal government, TRW broke off and took part of Hughes Aircraft Company and created TRW. TRW became a key player in credit card analysis. (TRW says whether you’re a good risk). There was a large presence in L.A., doing the same things as me. And they created the Chapter. People from RAND in Santa Monica, System Development [Corporation] in Santa Monica, TRW kinds of companies. At the time, there were very few [members] in academic community.

In 1964-1965 I joined the faculty, and I was asked to serve as chairman of the Academic Senate committee to deal with the following question: number one, should there be an academic program in computer science, and if so, where should it be located? Today to ask that question would be insanity. But at the time, you didn’t know whether the computer business was important. The committee was unanimous from the beginning, in its perception that computers were important. The question was where should it be located? [UC] Berkeley was facing the same problem, they said computer science in the math department. UCLA came to the recommendation: there should be a department in the School of Engineering (math aspects were important, but not the focus). The recommendation was approved, and a Department of Computer Science was established. It got underway.

[Leonard] Kleinrock was not to occur for another ten years. IBM donated in the early 1960s a big computer to UCLA to create the Western Data Processing Center WDPC. WDPC in fact served as the first computer network center in the world. It served as a processing center for universities throughout the western U.S. including Hawaii. Say at the University of Utah, you have a punch card reader connected to a telephone line, you would dial up WDPC, the phone line would communicate with the WDPC computer. You enter your data and programs on punch cards. It would be read and the data received at WDPC at UCLA. Then having sent the data and programs, you go offline. WDPC would do batch processing of the programs and data and produce results. It sent results back to University of Utah, [where it] punched out into punch cards. Communication was at ten characters per second. It was primitive but it was a network. As DARPA, and Arpanet began to develop the internet, they started with WDPC as the starting point. It was not till later that the first internet connection was made at UCLA and Stanford. 1963 at UCLA was a starting point. What kind of data was sent?: a scientist in physics wanting to process some data from experiment, academic calculations. It was not dealing with database management systems.

I played a role, it was a group of people working with document problems of microfilm, and applications of computers, who were members of ADI.

SB: What were some issues you saw as significant in the community, about 1961 on?

RH: The computer science placement. When I gave my course in 1958 over four to five years, I had a view: that the computer field had much to learn from libraries, with respect to information handling. I went to Larry Powell, then director of the UCLA Library, who was known for not liking computers. I went to the lion in his den! I said I am giving this course, I want to include in it at least a day of presentation on what LIBRARIES do with data handling. Larry Powell was not only the library director but also dean of the planned School of Library Service. Larry Powell saw what I was asking as an important question with respect to education. I ended up with Andy Horn, the second dean of the School of Library Service. Horn presented on the topic, and filled that role. My continuing view was that libraries had something of value for the computer field, not as an application, but that the knowledge librarians had was valuable. The computer field never recognized that libraries had anything to say. An example: we talk about metadata (a mechanism of retrieval) and what is metadata – but simply cataloging, ever since [Gottfried] Leibniz, for 300 years! The computer field FINALLY, finally recognized that they needed to catalog the data they were storing, whether on an internet or local information systems. They never called it cataloging, they called it metadata. That invokes a different image (you may remember a movie with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy called ‘Desk Set’ and Robert Preston’s ‘The Music Man’ in which the only person who knew what going on was a LIBRARIAN). The computer field never saw that, I did, it’s why I joined the School of Library Service. Not to bring computers to libraries but to bring libraries to computers.

SB: Tell me about microfilm, was it used at UCLA, in Los Angeles, and technology.

RH: Microfilm goes back to the early [19]20s. Libraries began using it as a means of dealing with newspapers. And as a means for preservation, like “film the brittle books.” The role of microfilm in the 1930s was seen as much broader, indeed that’s why ADI was established – mainly to use microfilm for Document Management. Libraries at the time, had great difficulty in dealing with documents because unlike published materials, they were uncontrollable, produced as a result of whatever organization was writing the document. The result was for a library to acquire a document and manage it, [it] was a real headache. ADI saw that document management was a very important area for information management. Indeed in the late 1940s when the intelligence community needed to deal with documents they took from Germany, they faced the problem “how do I deal with documents.” Microfilm was one tool, like the Minicard, which was developed for microfilms and searching. The use of microfilm as a means of document management was seen by ADI as very important. Libraries said forget it! They did not want to deal with these documents. They said they have Special Collections, manuscripts from authors – and these are inherently of value. There was a tension between literary authors, and the work of scientists – the needs of science information. [Needs for] not just published articles in journals, or in books, but in R&D particularly in corporate [places], dealing with documents!

Libraries missed the game at that time. They said they did not want to worry on documents, and focused attention on things of intrinsic, long term historical value in Special Collections and on published materials which are controllable.

My impression was that use of microfilm for document management at UCLA was minimal. ADI’s focus was on its use in industry, and in L.A. and throughout the country and the world. I do not recall any major effort in the U.K. in microfilm, except as they used it for compact storage (of newspapers) and preservation purposes. Microfilm for libraries continued to be useful [up to today]: you have a choice of microform (the more generic, and adopted) for preservation, and digitization for preservation is a pressing question today. A variety of forms can record digital data in more or less permanent form. The lifetime of CD-ROM, is of course questioned, but it’s long-term.

SB: Tell me about your leadership of UC’s Institute for Library Research.

RH: I was appointed in 1964-1965 as director of a UC-wide Institute for Library Research. There was a branch at Berkeley, it was headed by Bill Maron. Bill Maron was the co-director. The Institute was established to study issues related to computer uses in libraries. At Berkeley, he took the initiative which led to the creation of a UC-wide library network. I applied for research grants from NSF and the Council for Library Resources and others. When I joined the faculty, having been in business, I submitted six proposals for funding at significant levels (half to full million dollars) as these were the kinds of research projects I had been carrying out at my own company. There, I [had] expected to get one. At UCLA, I got all six, I was in a panic! I had more to do than I could possibly do! It was a success but very stressful. Berkeley took a pragmatic approach to development of a library computer network, and I took a RESEARCH approach.

That was fine, no tension there. One of its key persons Ralph Shoffner had worked for me at my company; I could not get an appointment for him at UCLA, and he went to Berkeley.

The Institute was not long-awaited, but the efforts of one man at Berkeley, Ray Swank, and he proposed the directorship be centered at Berkeley. I said I would not move to Berkeley, I’ve lived in L.A. since 1938, I did not want to leave. [L.A.’s] why I joined Hughes, I had an offer from IBM but I didn’t leave for it. So I would be director at UCLA. There was one project for NSF: how to deal with databases in the university. I felt, and the focus was on: how would the library serve as the agency for management of database files. Not the documents related to a research project but the data files. We now have a project for any of the sciences (physical, social) and from the School of Management – the Social Science Data Archives. One of the students graduating from the School of Library Service program, she created SSDA: Libbie Stephenson. You may remember I told this story at the Department of Information Studies 50th anniversary [Jan. 31, 2009], that she had asked me [in school] why do I have to take computer science stuff! Then she created it, but not as part of the UCLA Library, the UCLA Library never in fact accepted the view that the library should take any role in the management, storage, or retrieval of databases. My project in that respect was a failure, [but] in fact not, because larger issues were there to be researched. My objective was to get the library to play a role in the management of databases.

Another project funded by the Council o[n] Library Resources led to a book published on computers in libraries, Handbook of Data Processing for Libraries with Joseph Becker.

SB: Tell me about any programs you participated in for LACADI with continuing education, or your teaching at UCLA.

RH: The course I taught in 1958 was part of continuing education in the Math Department at UCLA. Aside from that, I played no role in continuing education except I gave a one-day lecture on computers and children’s librarianship [Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People, 1966, “The Computer, the Child, and Literature”].

SB: Tell me about the first Chapter officers in Los Angeles in 1961.

RH: Hal Borko has been my dear friend for many years, I knew Martha [Boaz].

SB: What characterized the organization of Chapter meetings, and the first election process.

RH: I was very naïve with respect to professional societies. I didn’t run, I was nominated and elected. Any role I ever played in societies – like ALA, I served as chairman of [the Committee on] Accreditation for two years – I didn’t do anything [related to candidacy], I was simply asked to do it. I played no role in its [Chapter’s] creation except in fulfilling.

SB: Was there communication with ADI headquarters on the role of the Los Angeles Chapter, and communications between members.

RH: Until I became president of ADI, I [had] played no role. [Then] I had to travel, as ADI meetings were held in D.C. – three to four a year, I would fly to D.C. and chair the meeting. At the first meeting, I should have immediately focused on issues of budget, instead I allowed participants to deal with agenda items and it was a near disaster. I didn’t know the organization. I knew how to run a company.

With topics, the national covered the local. Chapters are a means of local people with common interests to have an identity, and to develop that identity by meeting together – not just at national meetings which require travel, but at local meetings. So twenty people have shared interests or issues and want to have an identity as a group. This creates desirability for a local chapter, and motivates resulting activities. People can develop a group identity, and be more involved in the profession. The focus is on the common interest. Yes, [when you] produce publications it’s a means to communicate research results or operational experiences, but their main objective is to have this shared identity.

Martha Boaz was dean of the library school at USC. Unlike Larry Powell, she was interested in ADI interests. Larry Powell regarded ADI as something out of sight. It was not relevant to what the library was doing at the time. Martha Boaz saw it in more generic terms, as a central knowledge base. Fortunately Larry Powell and Andy Horn accepted my role in bringing computer dealings into libraries. This was not my objective (which was the opposite: bring libraries to computers) but in fact with computers to libraries, I played a significant role in doing so.

SB: Tell me about your contributions nationally and internationally.

RH: In the professional society context, I was national president of ADI, I was chairman of ALA Accreditation. More generally, I was a consultant to countries, governments, universities, and libraries in 45 countries. As an individual, and as visiting faculty at a dozen universities, I was a consultant to universities and libraries within them, and to national governments with regard to scientific and technical information.

SB: Let’s talk about a couple of later changes: ‘The Informer’ newsletter became OASIS, ADI changed the name to ASIS (1968) and then to ASIS&T (2000), and programs on certain topics.

RH: During my tenure as president of ADI, this issue arose: should we shift our focus from documents to information science? This [issue] was happening, and should we recognize that change by a change in name. I didn’t fight it but I didn’t foster it. A couple years later, this change occurred.

About the T: this was much later, I think it’s a mistake. In general I take a conservative approach. To me, information science was the important thing, why compete with the computer science people by going with the technology side? Let them deal with the technology, I want to deal with USE. There are crucial issues we need to deal with regarding the management of information, not the management of the technology. [The issue is] the management of the effective USE of the information (which involves technology) but the role of the technology in the

INFORMATION side. What can it do for me, for my responsibilities. My opinion is conditioned by other factors. Librarians have a very effective working relationship with the communities they serve. There’s also an effective relationship with the technology. Libraries, once they decided the technologies have a role to play, they did adopt and they adapted the technologies very effectively. An example is the way in which major research libraries dealt with implementing the information technology within their libraries: the network RLIN, and OCLC, and the Washington Library Network are very effective and very efficient. Libraries adopted and adapted technology with maximum effectiveness.

A major step was the creation of the MARC format. This made possible establishing the library network. This was completely by librarians. That cooperative approach was very effective and VERY ECONOMICAL. That was the rationale. They made one mistake which was finally resolved: they created two networks that were parallel: OCLC and RLIN were essentially duplicates. OCLC for management reasons became successful and RLIN merged into it. There was recognition that we don’t need the redundancies.

Libraries have looked at the financial and the economic [issues] very effectively. Because libraries as agencies are under severe economic constraints. They HAVE to be efficient. They cannot afford to waste money. All of my experience indicates to me that libraries are exceptionally well-managed in the use of resources. They make very complicated decisions about acquisition policies, organizational structures. They arrive at decisions that are difficult personally to make, but the results are almost universally excellent. There are cases in which you have poor management, bad decisions are made, but these are miniscule in relative magnitude.

I have a very high respect for academic library management, and also for public libraries. Their’s is an important model: centralized responsibility. With academic and public [libraries], you see centralized responsibility for personnel, cataloging, acquisition policies, for services policies.

Centralized leads to efficiencies and to equitability.

ARL libraries have hundreds of librarians. Librarians should be focused on one thing AND do a bit of all. To the profession in terms of operational effectiveness, one cannot do everything. You must take responsibilities and carry them out as effective[ly] as you can. But the beauty of the field is that the skills one has allows an individual person to move into any area. The moves from acquisitions to cataloging, are not a trivial jump! Or an easy transition. But I suspect they could make it. They’d want to. A cataloging librarian moves into a reference function, they liked the anonymity of cataloging in the back room, not out there on display to the public. They could serve as a reference librarian. Back to library education: it has the objective of preparing the graduate for WHATEVER opportunities are there. I emphasize (though it’s not accepted) that every graduate can expect to go into management, they have skills not just in the library but in management. [Those in] the graduate level of the UCLA program ought to expect to have management responsibilities. [To do] not just humdrum work but to manage people. It’s about teaching to technology or teaching to people. [In contrast,] with a small library staff, you’ve got to be able to handle the entire range of both professional responsibilities and managerial: money and resources. And cataloging, acquisitions, references, databases. Archives and informatics as well: I applaud the extensions [at UCLA]. Anne Gilliland is quite remarkable, what she brings to the program is really astounding. More important is that the technologies and skills UCLA is dealing with cover now the kind of landscape they should. The impact of the internet in particular on library operations and services is so dramatic, we have to deal with that both in a

professional way and in a managerial way. Libraries deliver in-person and digital. Librarianship brings to this information management a very important perspective with several elements:

  1. it’s always had openness. This is important in the information field.
  2. organization. Cataloging represents the perception that organization is a necessary tool, it is important.
  3. the library brings evaluation, like the acquisitions process. We need to have tools for evaluating the VALUE of the information. Both in acquisitions and in use. What the librarian has built into their professional skills is assessment. The profession and its philosophy and skills embody skills which are very important in the information world more generally.

I’m triggered by our comment about openness. There is one step that is very frightening in the information field. Bluntly: cybercrime, cyberterrorism, cyberwar are facts of life in the internet world. Crime shows up in the social networking context: internet attacks on individuals either personally or financially. Suicides as a result of internet bullying is a CRIME; that would lead to such a response by a person. Terrorism: groups attacking other groups using the internet as a tool to do so. War: countries using the internet as a weapon of war to attack other countries. I face a problem: how can we reconcile the principle of openness of information with the NECESSITY of protecting information against such attacks. We have a real problem: balancing openness with effectiveness. How does the library field deal with that? This was seen earlier in an almost trivial frame: pornography. The library policy is toward openness. Perhaps there is evil content, that does not mean a library won’t carry that porn book. Libraries balance that with the need of protecting children from porn, etc. What the library historically has done, is arrive at a very effective balance between conflicting needs, especially with regard to acquisition policies. In this way the library recognizes the needs of the community and the needs of openness. The LARGER, HUGE issues raised by cybercrime are far beyond what the library does. They really pale in comparison. There’s this magnitude of problems in the larger information world. The Power Grid of the U.S. could be brought down tomorrow by the internet, financial institutions could be brought down, government operations brought down. We have seen cases where power outages leave people grief-stricken.

SB: The Chapter is still active.

RH: The Chapter is still going on, I’ve been out of professional societies for two decades. Yes, then participation in ADI Chapter meetings was about 40-50 people. We heard about them somehow – the newsletters helped. I really see Project MARC as a collaborative librarianship paragon. Also I feel strongly that computer scientists are PEOPLE too. And collaboration regarding technology is to be expected and encouraged. The field should still focus on the information science, refining that concept and focusing on USE. SIG USE is one of the most popular SIGs.

End of interview.

* Note: Names in green were confirmed in later email conversations, which are reproduced below:

  1. RH: That site for the WDPC is: http://personal.anderson.ucla.edu/clay.sprowls/history/WDPC/wdpc.htm

RH: The name of the Dean at UC Berkeley was Ray Swank. Go to this web site for a brief bio: http://people.ischool.berkeley.edu/~buckland/swank.html

[SB note: see also Part 2 of: Robert D. Harlan, “History of the Book: Thirty Years at UC Berkeley’s School of Librarianship and Study of Early American Printers, 1963-1993,” an oral history conducted in 2000 by Laura McCreery, Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2001. http://texts.cdlib.org/view?docId=kt0v19n4c7]

  1. RH: Another person that I mentioned but did not name during our discussion was Ralph Shoffner. He worked for me at Advanced Information Systems, Inc. I really wanted him to work for me at the Institute for Library Research at UCLA but I could not get the appropriate appointment. Bill Maron at UC Berkeley was able to effect an appropriate appointment for Ralph and Ralph played a very important role in developments at ILR there including responsibility for day-to-day management.

A couple of web sites for him: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ralph-shoffner/a/6ab/620

http://gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/bates/articles/Berkeley.html (you’ll need to search through the file but you will find a very apt description of Ralph)

  1. RH: The third name I forgot during our conversation was Admiral Grace Hopper. She was an exceptionally important person in the development of computer programming. The one-day course I took that she taught was about machine language which, in 1948 was just about the only programming language there was.

The following is a relevant web site http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper

  1. SB: You mentioned that your work for the Council of Library Resources while at the Institute for Library Research led to a publication on “computers in libraries.”

RH: The book was “Handbook of Data Processing for Libraries”, authored by Robert M. Hayes and Joseph Becker.. The first edition was published in 1970 by Becker & Hayes, Inc., a subsidiary of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. The second edition was published in 1974 by Melville Publishing Company, a Division of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.