January 28, 2022

Ohio University Libraries’ Extraordinary Legacy as the First Library in the World to Catalog Online

From Ohio University:

It can be said that online cataloging as it is today began on Aug. 26, 1971, when Ohio University’s Vernon R. Alden Library, using a dedicated phone line, was the first in the world to generate an electronic library record. That online cataloging system, created by the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), became a pioneer in networking library materials.


“The creation of that first electronic catalog record by the OHIO Libraries was a transformative moment not only for libraries, but for the ways in which people think about, share and access information to this day,” said Neil Romanosky, dean of University Libraries. “The importance of the occasion — and the University and the Libraries’ role in it — cannot be overstated.”

The unique history of OHIO Libraries includes many innovative firsts, such as being the first academic library (1814) and having the first professional librarian in the Old Northwest Territory. OHIO was also the first library in the world to catalog online, as well as many other landmark accomplishments.


As the OHIO staff prepared to launch the online system, there was an air of excitement and anticipation among the team who met weekly to study codes.

“The people who worked on this were not only excited, but they were also extremely capable, and there was a real camaraderie,” said Betty Hoffman-Pinther, who served as the operations supervisor of the cataloging department at the time.

That historic moment finally arrived on Thursday, Aug. 26, 1971, at 10 a.m., when Milton G. Hodnette, head of cataloging, entered OHIO Libraries’ first online entry for the children’s book, “The Rand-McNally Book of Favorite Pastimes,” by Dorothy Grider, Mabel Watts and Virginia Hunter.

On the second day of operation, however, OHIO’s scheduled tasks didn’t go as smoothly as they had on the previous day; smoke began to cascade from one of the three memory-core units of the Xerox Sigma 5 in Alden Library.

Learn More, Read the Complete Article

See Also: Celebrating 45 years of WorldCat (2016; via OCLC)

See Also: WorldCat Turns 40 (OCLC via Wayback Machine)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.