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Gaby Divay's Papers: Academic Libraries
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Living & Learning in Revolutionary Times:
From Cards to Bytes in Academic Libraries*

Gaby Divay
University of Manitoba Libraries, Archives & Special Collections

© e-Edition, August 2007

How to cite this e-Article
University of Manitoba Libraries
Archives & Special Collections
UMArchives: FPG & FrL Collections
Note: Ten years have passed since this this paper was presented at the University of Manitoba/Trier Partnership Conference held at the University of Trier on May 5, 1997. The account on how the electronic revolution has affected academic libraries in general, and cataloguing in particular, from 1975 to 1995, has not aged, and still adequately reflects the transition from card- to microform- to online catalogue. The same holds true for the description of preparing a dissertation in longhand and keying it into a computer in the 1980s, and composing it directly in electronic format in the early 1990s. However, just how fast and how completely wireless communication would be integrated in the academic research-, learning- and teaching process since then could hardly be imagined at the time. -- In both 2003 & 2004, after seven years, I had the privilege to teach the French Renaissance Literature course again, this time using online resources for selecting appropriate texts, websites and other teaching materials, if not in the classroom itself. Communicating with the students was largely done by e-mail, and even most assignments were sent sent as attachments. -- On the FPG & FrL front, electronic modes were not yet in the picture for the international Anniversary Symposium "In Memoriam FPG: 1879-1948-1998" and an online registration form failed to work properly, pioneering e-editions of two voluminous novels by Grove were e-published in 1999/2000, and the modest brochure posted in 1995/6 has mushroomed into a database containing some 1,500 individual e-documents,some big, some small, and including many images. See the FPG & FrL website at:

gd 26.8.2007

We are living in challenging times of unprecedented change. Even the Industrial Revolution, changing the modes of manufacturing and transportation from the mid-18th century onwards, seems gradual and sedate in comparison. And the profound impact made by the single invention of the printing press in 1453 took centuries to infiltrate more than the upper layers of society. However, the consequences of the 15th century quantum-leap of advancement are in many ways analogous to present day intellectual and educational transformations. And the Industrial Revolution at its peak around 1900 with the advent of assembly lines, the automobile and the airplane bears even stronger similarities with those recent technological developments of our age which have been aptly termed the Electronic Revolution.

I know little about European universities, even though I was an undergraduate student in Hamburg, Heidelberg, and at the Sorbonne nearly three decades ago. In more recent years, I have been using a variety of archives and research libraries in Germany, France, Switzerland and England, and from this personal and limited perspective, they seem less service- and user-oriented than their North American counterparts. Open access stacks are rarely seen, so that the benefits of browsing are not available to the ordinary patron. The arrangement in card catalogues varies widely from place to place, but all tend to be cumbersome. Computer access was still either relatively limited, or unsatisfactory whenever older materials had not been converted to machine-readable format. And the lack of a unified and widely applied standard like the Library of Congress classification scheme results in a simply bewildering array of subject groupings and corresponding call-numbers, all of which need to be meticulously filled in as many as five places on arcane request forms. It also seems that North American research libraries are playing a far more important role within their institutions, and there clearly is no equivalent for academic librarians who enjoy faculty status and share in the benefits and obligations of their teaching colleagues.

This said, it is obvious that the following observations are either restricted to broad North-American trends, or to the example of a fairly typical campus, namely, the University of Manitoba.

Access versus Ownership
The furious developments in communication technology over the last twenty years have had their most immediate and noticeable impact on universities and their dual mission of higher learning and research. There has been a veritable explosion in scholarly publications both in print and increasingly in electronic formats. The difficulties to keep up with this flood of material were further compounded by drastic price increases and serious budget cuts, forcing universities to reconsider their priorities, and to review the traditional roles of their computing and library units. These are increasingly blurred, as the historical definition of the library as "warehouse of information" has changed to that of "provider of access to information,"[1] and since the modes of access have become largely computer-based. The universities' most urgent commitment became the timely provision of a technological infrastructure which would enable its two central communication units to satisfy the changing needs of both knowledge producers (the faculty) and consumers (the students).

In spite of the dismal budgetary situation, the University of Manitoba has kept abreast of this task very well, and for the last ten years or more, access to electronic information has rapidly expanded from a selected few to the majority of faculty-, staff- and student users. Because of the urgent development of online catalogues, the Libraries have always been particularly well serviced. Especially since 1990, they also have enjoyed the good fortune of strong, progressive leadership, effective representation on the university's policy-making bodies, and active participation in both national and international associations of research libraries.[2]

How then were the major changes and crises weathered by the UM Libraries? All the problem-solving measures recommended in library literature have been actually applied locally, and alleviated the growing pains associated with the drastic shift from "owned" towards "access-oriented" academic collections.

Like most academic libraries, ours was affected by considerable reductions in staff over the course of time, while having to face the double bind of rising costs and shrinking budgets. Some painful decisions had to be made, most notably, a merciless slashing of journal subscriptions in several bloody rounds. These serial cuts and also much reduced numbers of books demonstrated dramatically the rapidly widening gap between what was published in old and new formats, and what could be acquired. This forced the libraries to consider and adopt some innovative coping strategies. Among them were:

            - an increasing emphasis and a greater reliance on gifts, both in kind and as financial commitment. Examples are special collections or private research libraries donated by bibliophile benefactors or retiring faculty members, endowments set up for specific subjects or to commemorate individuals, and a popular "adopt-a-journal" campaign.

            - new or improved services like document delivery, interlibrary loan, and the networking of databases at a local, provincial, and regional level.

            - the implementation of an integrated system serving acquisitions, cataloguing, circulation, and the latest OPAC (Online public access catalogue) named BISON, a website interface of which has recently been launched.[3]

            - the out-sourcing of library operations traditionally done in-house. Large-scale approval plans and the processing of more than 80% of monographs by an off-campus cataloguing agency are further recent examples.

Most of these measures clearly demonstrate a trend towards resource sharing among academic libraries, and the close collaboration with campus computing services as well as external, commercial library services.

Concurrently, a restructuring of old and the establishment of new departments and a corresponding shifting of human resources has taken place in response to changing needs and conditions. The most notable examples are perhaps the establishment of a shelving- and binding unit, and the creation of a much needed technological support service called LETS Help. And professional development for all staff has been offered more than ever in form of workshops, lectures, and panels addressing library-related issues from narrow to broad concerns.

For the near future, a major amalgamation of several unit libraries is planned, and physical arrangements for this physical relocation and consolidation of collections are being made.

Overall, in this period of great challenge and fast flowing flux, the University of Manitoba Libraries have proven to be adaptable, responsive, and progressive, so that they are likely not only to survive into the next millennium, but to play a prominent role as information brokers within their institution. They are developing towards the future "virtual library" which "through a combination of local resources and external connections ... is able to put users in touch with the information they need when they need it."[4]

Cataloguing Experience, 1975-1995
After this bird's-eye-view survey of some recent developments in a typical Canadian academic library, I want to address now in some detail how the impact of the Electronic Revolution looks from the frog's perspective of a veteran librarian:

I graduated with an M.L.S. degree from McGill University in 1975, and accepted my position as German Cataloguer at the University of Manitoba Library in July of the same year. At that time, cataloguing was still an entirely manual process. The basic tasks of providing a bibliographic description, a subject analysis and the corresponding subject classification for books and journals acquired by the Libraries were performed in longhand, then typed, then duplicated from two to twelve times, and finally filed in strict alphabetical order in the Public Card Catalogue. Adherence to the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Library of Congress practice, and an intricate set of filing conventions governed the scene along with local modifications passed on either in the way of oral tradition, or by a convoluted set of recorded, but unindexed minutes. I remember well lengthy and heated debates about issues of 3rd, 4th or 5th order of importance concerning punctuation, spacing, or the choice of "main" versus "added" entry. While the alphabetical filing arrangement did indeed affect the retrieval of crucial information in significant ways, the fact that cards containing essential documentation were filed under each possible access point even then exposed this last mentioned concern in particular as an unrealistic striving for platonic perfection.

In 1979, the cataloguing operation leapt into automation by contributing original records to and deriving records created by other institutions from a University of Toronto based, nation-wide bibliographic database called UTLAS. For twelve years, and regardless of the varying transformations of the local Public Catalogue, UTLAS remained the central agency for generating the bibliographic data which reflected the holdings of the eleven University of Manitoba Library units. The first local product was a fledgling computer-generated fiche catalogue which was updated on a quarterly basis. Since it reflected only current titles, it was a mere appendix to the now "frozen" card catalogue containing all pre-1979 records. Needless to say, the new access tool was arranged along the same strict alphabetical standards as its typed counterpart.

Around 1984, the fiche catalogue was replaced with a semi-automated facility generated from an in-house acquisitions system and fed by UTLAS records laboriously converted from tapes every six weeks. It was named UMSEARCH, and featured keyword search options. This was a giant step forward in comparison with the alphabetically arranged fiche product produced by UTLAS. But again, it covered only relatively recent materials, and a dual-track searching approach involving intensive consultation of the old card catalogue remained in effect. This did not change until the late 1980s, when a massive ReCon project finally translated most of these cards into machine-readable form. Though many of those converted MARC-records were definitely substandard,[5] at least they now were all part of a near-comprehensive local database which fairly faithfully reflected the vast majority of the Libraries' possessions, and just in time for the important implementation of the next generation catalogue.

It was in 1991 that the homely UMSEARCH operation was replaced with a PALS/UNISYS mainframe system which was dedicated to the production of a partly on-line catalogue named BRIDGE. Partly on-line, because the updating of new records was not dynamic, and the catalogue was brought up to reflect the latest additions on a bi-weekly basis. Yet, the bibliographic description of new materials was now made available to the public before the physical processing could be completed, which was the reverse of previous times when the books were sitting on the shelves long before their corresponding records could be found in the catalogue.

The advent of BRIDGE truly represented a quantum leap of development. Keyword searching, now applied to a suitably large pool of bibliographic data, and a generally user-friendly behaviour endeared it to staff and users alike. Unfortunately, there were major problems with its storage capacity, and the system crashed fairly frequently which resulted in the permanent loss of an unknown number of records each time.

The system's cataloguing module called the MARC-Editor also revolutionized the nature of cataloguing. While more than 80% of all new records continued to be derived from the UTLAS database by library technicians who adapted them directly for BRIDGE, working on the remaining materials in need of professional attention became a dream compared to the analogous manual procedures required during the previous twelve years.

Professional cataloguers had been structurally excluded from direct interaction with their sophisticated electronic support system. The UTLAS database was in fact used primarily for clerical purposes: library technicians searched and derived records, and typists entered lengthy handwritten catalogue entries generated in longhand by professionals exactly as in pre-automated times, with the only difference, that in post-1979 years coding fields were added. Now, the new system allowed creating original records on-line from start to finish, and I have found this transition from an assembly-line type of operation to an autonomous and global process tremendously enriching.

Ironically, so-called original cataloguers in North American academic libraries are rapidly becoming extinct, partly because the acquisition of print materials is dwindling down due to ever-shrinking budgets, partly because more and more records can be derived and adapted by non-professional staff thanks to the new technologies.

BRIDGE was replaced in 1995 with BISON, an Online Public Access Catalogue generated from a DRA-based integrated system. It was an uneasy change, paralyzing the entire cataloguing operation for nearly a year, and we are still getting used to it now, nearly two years after its abrupt implementation. One major drawback must be considered the total confusion regarding the crucial question of holdings. A significant number of BISON records failed to convey the vital information of where library materials could be located in the stacks, and as far as multi-volume sets and especially serials were concerned, nobody could reconcile what exactly was available. Sadly, in times of accelerated automation, these apparently minor flaws have to be corrected laboriously in painstaking manual operations which may take years to accomplish.

As to the official title of the new catalogue, a few symbolic connections impose themselves: the Bison is the emblematic symbol for the Province of Manitoba, and as such it affords a multitude of favorable connotations, such as prodigious strength, stubborn independence, unrestrained roaming of the Prairie plains, natural freedom, etc. Naming the new OPAC after this legendary animal meant no doubt to tap into these positive associations. However, the name befits this particular catalogue in its telnet or website versions for quite different and less pleasant reasons: a member of the bovine family, the Bison appears plodding and deceivingly peaceful. Its lush, shaggy coat and appealingly rounded shape lend it a soft and even "cute" appearance. But informed observers of the species have judged it to be unpredictable and quite dangerous. Its enormous strength is uniformly admired, yet, unlike its cousins the oxen who reliably pulled pioneer carts over rugged Red River trails, the Bison has proven impossible to tame, and has never rendered service to settlers, traders or anybody else. The new catalogue bearing its name, though of enormous storage capacity and less prone to crashes than its predecessor, has turned out to be decidedly user-unfriendly, and its cataloguing module NETCAT must be the most cumbersome and antiquated facility in existence. Therefore, it may not be inappropriate to call this particular BISON nothing else but the Bison-Beast. It is hoped that the recently established web-interface will go far in alleviating its most obvious and annoying retrieval and display shortcomings.

Looking back over the past seventeen years, the incredible distance covered from feeding cards into manually maintained catalogues and records created on-line for automated successors like BRIDGE or BISON with dynamic updating and retrieval options seems exceedingly difficult, if not impossible to convey to anyone who has not experienced it.

Dialectics of Quantity & Quality
The dramatic effects of this development have simultaneously shaped the way faculty and students are finding what they need in the libraries' collections. Apart from an ever increasing number of networked reference databases and electronic journals, nothing has changed much in the physical arrangement of printed materials which, in the humanities at least, continue to take up the lion's share of the collections: books and current or bound periodicals are still sitting on the open access shelves, classified and therefore regrouped by subject areas. But rather than navigating along forty metres and hundreds of card cabinet drawers in alphabetical arrangement to find out where wanted materials are located in the stacks, our users today navigate in public access terminals. This represents the reversal of a dynamic into a static physical process. It is much nicer to sit and, like the Yellow Pages suggest for commercial telephone information, "let your fingers do the walking" in a library setting as well.

However, intellectually the searching activity itself, always dynamic in nature, has changed considerably, and not entirely for the better. For the retrieval of in-depth bibliographic information about any given title, I maintain that the time factor has increased rather than diminished in the electronic environment; and that the quality of information gained at the terminal hardly makes up for what a good, old catalogue card used to convey globally at a glance. What is now flagged in front of your eyes is fleeting and fragmented both in form and in content. Forever lost is a kind of immediacy and completeness of perception. It certainly is not impossible to piece together this kind of centralized information from fractioned access searches, one-by-one displays of potential "hits", then follow-up displays of varying length, and all of this within the strict spatial confines of one screen image at a time, but it is a time-consuming and tedious process. In a case like the voluminous Sophien-edition of Goethe's works one may not know anymore what one is looking at by the time one has reached screen five of the intricate description of the contents.[6] Trying to assemble an overall picture of any given bibliographic entity in this laborious fashion is simply not and never can be the same as it used to be in a less electronic and more tangible, sense oriented and therefore more humane environment.

This example serves well to confirm the validity of a profound classical intuition: dialectics can be applied here to an interplay of quantity and quality, of physical comfort and mental stress, and ultimately, of loss and gain. It is true that so much more information can be retrieved today so much faster than twenty years ago, and yet, the results are often of inferior quality. While your body is nearly motionless and comfortable during the new searching procedures, your mind is stretched to the limits while it races through a kafkaesque maze of visually absorbed bits and pieces of information. The definite advantages of enhanced retrieval possibilities are therefore counterbalanced by the no less definite disadvantages of drowning in a sea of fragmented information.

Perhaps this change from a comprehensive to an atomized approach to knowledge serves as a telling paradigm for the results of traditional versus current education: what was transmitted as core knowledge twenty-five years ago, simply is neither taught nor learned today. I was rudely awakened to this fact when I had opportunity to teach a course in French Renaissance Literature in 1994/1995. None of my bright students in the senior years of their university education had the slightest notion about contingent subject areas which, however, were essential to an understanding of our texts. Be it classical literature, mythology, broad historical or religious givens, or matters cultural, political and philosophical, nothing brought about a shimmer of even faint recognition. To what extent this shocking loss of what used to be general knowledge is the result of the technological revolution we are experiencing is hard to say. But that the unified structure of traditional scholarly disciplines seems to have exploded into an array of highly intricate, specialized, and essentially isolated clusters of knowledge is likely the deplorable consequence of the far-reaching changes affecting the very nature of communication.

A Scholar's View: 1980s
On this nostalgic note, I will now address two of my experiences as an active scholar in order to illustrate another aspect of the rapidly changing academic and electronic environment. For academic librarians, research is part of their contractual obligations, and one I have taken as seriously as my professional duties. The first venture is related to my doctoral dissertation which was submitted in 1983 and defended in 1984.[7] It was created in an essentially manual fashion, though even then the final product was stored in and printed from a computer file. The second project was to edit Greve/Grove's poetry for a Master's degree for the University of Manitoba's German Department. It  was completed ten years later in 1993, and involved the use of a Macintosh computer from start to finish.

For a doctoral degree from l'Université Laval in Quebec City, I studied Montaigne's usage of the words "nature," "fortune," and "God" and their meaning in the underlying conceptual field of metaphysical powers. This was basically an empirical undertaking in lexical semantics, and I started out with handwritten index cards for each of roughly 1,500 occurrences. These were the basis for a concordance generated, like the remainder of my work, from a Digital computer acquired in the late 1970s by my husband's Department of Mathematics. Though I had hardly any direct interaction with this marvel of early computer technology, it was clear that it was not much larger than present-day personal computers, and that in spite of its modest size it had a storage capacity matching the mainframe facilities still in use at the time which took up an enormous amount of space.

The dominant structuralist fashion of the 1970s provided me with little theoretical and even less practical help in the analysis of huge numbers of actual occurrences. I eventually chanced upon a usable tool: an East German grammar, true to Marxist principles, provided the desired dialectical balance between theory and practice, or, in Saussure's terminology, between "langue" and "parole." It was based on the work of the French structuralist grammarian L. Tesnière, it explored the oscillation of language at the seam of syntax and semantics, and it did help me sort out my material. For instance, nouns functioning like other word categories were to be excluded from the study of the semantic field under investigation. An occurrence like "par nature" obviously belongs to an adverbial paradigm, meaning for all practical purposes "naturellement;" and though Nature is still implied as an agent in whatever is done "naturally," her role is not emphasized and even diffuse in comparison with the strong focus placed on her activities in a grammatical subject or object functions.

After eliminating roughly one quarter of all occurrences for these functional reasons, the purely distributional facts of the remaining word material alone were highly revealing of Montaigne's metaphysical position. The subsequent semantic analysis based on these empirical observations only confirmed that this intellectual giant embraced a world-view akin to pantheism. Nature not only appeared most often, she also was consistently represented as a supreme, a benign, and even maternal ontological power. Fortune consistently had the role of an arbitrary principle with predominantly negative connotations, so that death, reversals in societal status, or chance outcomes of historical battles were associated with her unpredictable realm. "God" was used least often. Furthermore, only one-third of the already meagre data referred to Him in an absolute sense, whereas the remainder either consisted of expressions like "Dieu mercy," or signified various gods of mostly the Greco-Roman pantheon. It is true that there was a fair number of respectful paraphrases for God to be considered in addition, but overall, these looked suspiciously like lip-service, possibly to placate the vigilant and dangerous Church authorities of the age -- it may be remembered that "heresy" resulted in being burned at the stake, which fate amongst many others was suffered by Montaigne's contemporary Giordano Bruno for his abstract speculations about the minima and the maxima. Montaigne's "God" occurrences were also noticeably lacking in emotional conviction so typical of Montaigne elsewhere, particularly, when waxing lyrical about Nature.

The highly interdisciplinary background of the Renaissance and Montaigne's classical heritage necessitated considerable exploration in the area of ancient philosophy, and particularly of the eclectic Hellenistic age. Stoicism played a dominant role in his early thought, pyrrhonian skepticism of the most radical kind marked his middle years, and an enlightened Epicureanism seems to prevail in his mature writing. However, most important is the temperate kind of skepticism which pervades his finest late essays and must be considered his favourite intellectual tradition.

A combination of the lexical material analyzed and a detailed study of skepticism allowed the conclusion that wide spread attempts, particularly by French Montaigne scholars, to rally him firmly into the folds of the Catholic Faith were unjustified. The apparent contradiction between his daring ideas and his pronounced political and religious conservatism was a riddle easily resolved: true champions of relativism and unconventional thought, skeptics of all times have paradoxically adhered to the prescribed conventions of their countries, precisely because they recognized them as arbitrary, and because any less-than-perfect order was quite rightly deemed preferable to chaotic conditions. Montaigne had ample opportunity to witness such upheavals during the religious wars when atrocities were committed on both sides of the opposing factions for what seems today like trivial differences in interpretation of church doctrines.

A Scholar's View: 1990s
In 1981, I catalogued a slim volume of obscure poetry by an even obscurer author named Felix Paul Greve. The order information revealed that $3,000 had been paid for it. This was nearly half of the book budget available for German literature at the time, and though the budgetary restraints were not as dismal then as they are now, this 1902 vanity press publication with the title Wanderungen caused a minor sensation. Who was this man to warrant such an extravagant expenditure? This enigma was soon unraveled when I processed the galley-proofs of Master Mason Ihle's House, Professors Spettigue's and Riley's translation of Greve's 1906 novel about his companion Else Endell's childhood. The editors' introduction reported on D. O. Spettigue's amazing discovery in 1971 that the Canadian pioneer novelist Frederick Philip Grove had been Greve before he adopted his Canadian identity in 1912. Grove's papers, which contain many unpublished manuscripts, were in possession of our archives since the early 1960s. Several important research collections have been added since then, making the University of Manitoba Archives a recognized centre for Greve/Grove studies, and lately an FPG Endowment Fund has been established.

Around 1984, I seriously started pursuing this new interest which is not as entirely unrelated to my Renaissance studies as it may seem at first glance: my preoccupation with the skeptical tradition had shown a filiation from classical times to Montaigne, to Hume who awakened Kant from his "dogmatic slumber," to Nietzsche who wrote his doctoral thesis on Diogenes Laertius, to Neo-Kantianism [notably, Vaihinger's Die Philosophie des Als-Ob bears an uncanny resemblance with Grove's unpublished cultural-critical essays], to Mauthner and the so-called language crisis around 1900 which found its most acute expression in Hofmannsthal's "Chandos-Letter" which is considered a manifesto of language skepticism set interestingly enough in the Renaissance. Greve, who studied classical philology and archaeology in Bonn from 1898 to 1900, was fitting perfectly into this larger context, and in addition held the appeal of connecting local resources with my research and language expertise.

Here is FPG's intriguing story in a nutshell: Greve, obsessed with Oscar Wilde and living above his means like a dandy, tried to gain the acceptance of the influential poet Stefan George and his circle. He nearly succeeded, but then he became entangled with Else, the wife of his architect friend August Endell. They eloped to Palermo in early 1903, taking the doubly deceived husband along as far as Naples. In May, Greve was arrested in Bonn and spent one year in prison for defrauding his former university friend Kilian. Though devastated, Else waited for him, and after his release they lived in Switzerland, France and Berlin until 1909 when Greve, who had become an incredibly prolific translator, sold his Swift translation to more than one publisher, hastily staged a suicide, and started a new life in America. When Else joined him a year later, they operated a small farm near Sparta, Kentucky, and around late 1911, Greve left her for good. Else survived by posing in Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and New York where she married a black sheep of the illustrious Freytag-Loringhoven family in 1913. Greve made his way towards Canada, worked, just  like Knut Hamsun had in the 1880s, on a huge Bonanza Farm near Fargo, North Dakota, and assumed his new identity as Grove in Manitoba in 1912. He married a young fellow teacher in 1914. (Note that, since Else and Greve were married in Berlin in August 1907, both became bigamists with their respective new unions). After a decade of silence and teaching in remote areas, Grove started producing his numerous pioneer novels à la Flaubert in the early 1920s. As a Canadian author of alleged Anglo-Swedish origin, he became a big fish in a small pond, and was virtually unknown outside Canada until recently. Else became quite famous for her extravagant behaviour and her dadaist affiliations in New York, Berlin, and Paris, and she has received ongoing attention in art history books. She may have been a small fish, but in international waters.

Over the last twelve years I curated the Spettigue Collection, catalogued all five hundred books in Grove's personal Library Collection for the Rare Book Room, hunted down some quite spectacular FPG sources in North American and European archives, and published or presented many of my findings. The emphasis here, however, is on the bilingual, critical edition of FPG's unpublished poetry from his University of Manitoba Collections and newly discovered German archival sources: it was defended as an M.A. thesis in September 1992, corrected for official deposit with the UM Faculty of Graduate Studies in August 1993, then further revised, enlarged, and published in December 1993.[8]

The arrangement was chronological. Greve's German poetry included Wanderungen and fourteen newly discovered poems. Seven of these had appeared in the journal Die Freistatt in 1904 and 1905 under the name of Fanny Essler which name was concurrently used as the title of Greve's first novel about Else's life, and today must be considered a joint pseudonym for both. Next, as a juncture between the two FPGs, came Grove's six German poems one of which had been published by Greve in 1907, and still provides the best proof for the Greve/Grove identity. Grove himself also translated it and another of his German poems, and these are mark the transition into his English poetry which fills two-thirds of this edition. Many reflect unacknowledged "borrowing" from notable poets, confirming Else's astute judgement that FPG's talent lay in formal mastery and imitation rather than in original artistic creation. From revealing annotations in Grove's library, I was able to pin him down to several precise sources, namely, to Shelley, Hardy, Goethe, Heine and 17th century poet Hofmannswaldau whose work Greve had propagated in a slim 1907 edition. Greve's poetry mimetically reflects the so-called "Stefan George Mache" both in precious form and in neo-romantic content. Though Grove's poetry is most often didactic "Gedankenlyrik" à la Goethe, it invariably adheres to the formal requirements learned from the George Circle decades earlier.

I entered all of this material into a Macintosh computer during a Research Leave in 1990. Much of it was in Grove's or Greve's handwriting, and often not easy to decipher. But I estimate that fiddling with the layout took at least as much time as inputting the entire text. In addition, the ambition to index all poems for a comprehensive word concordance may have taken yet twice as long. Unexpected difficulties arose at the time of printing: without warning, the early version of Microsoft Word I used decided that its indexing capacity was exhausted, so that two separate alphabetical files had to be produced and manually integrated. The creation of a critical apparatus was also a source of major frustrations, both for textual variants noted in footnotes, and for various lists correlating versions or regrouping clusters of poems. But in spite of these irritations, it was an exciting and overall rewarding experience in desktop publishing.

Encouraged by this development, I applied and obtained a University of Manitoba Research Grant in 1996 for the preparation of electronic Finding Aids to FPG-related collections, foremost, an annotated bibliography of the five hundred titles in the Grove Library Collection, which his son Leonard Grove donated in 1991, and which includes many of the texts young Greve had once translated in a previous life. Though I have acquired another powerful, but highly temperamental Macintosh "Performa" computer for this and other FPG e-projects, and am now using the latest version of Microsoft Word, there are again major problems with the indexing part of my work, inviting cynical musings about "progress" in general and of computer technology in particular.

With the establishment of an FPG & FrL Endowment in January of the same year 1996, Freytag-Loringhoven materials exchanged in 1991 with the University of Maryland, College Park, and sources gathered elsewhere have become an important part of these archival collections. This fact is  reflected in the first venture funded by the Endowment, which was a brochure prepared in 1995 and divulged on the University of Manitoba Archives' then still rudimentary website in 1996.

A Scholar's View: Adequacy of UM Collections
When considering the development from an off-line to an on-line genesis of dissertation texts of some 600 pages submitted in 1983 in the first case, and of ca. 300 pages completed ten years later in the second, one realizes the obvious similarity with the automation trends described earlier for the cataloguing operation during roughly the same period. Another observation concerning the use and the adequacy of the UM Libraries' collections comes to mind. The research needs for each scholarly venture were governed by quite different considerations: four centuries of sustained interest had accumulated an overwhelming amount of critical literature on Montaigne. For FPG, the Canadian part from 1912 to 1948 was relatively well documented, while for his German years hardly any documents existed at all.

The main tool in the Montaigne study was a personally owned, authoritative edition of Montaigne's Essays which was much annotated, underlined, and marked during the many years of my manual labours. For the linguistic literature and for Montaigne criticism proper, the local collections could be considered quite satisfactory and even good for the most part. The picture looked far less promising when it came to intersecting and overlapping aspects of intellectual history which dealt with Montaigne's classical formation, some of his lesser known contemporaries, or his demonstrable influence on thinkers like Francis Bacon, Goethe, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. The more direct and obvious reception of his thought by Pascal or Rousseau were again comparatively well documented. For a substantial independent study on Goethe's concept of Nature I later found this bibliographic situation repeated and confirmed: Goethe himself was well covered, but as soon as the topic branched out towards the interdisciplinary margins, our holdings became sketchy, haphazard and ultimately disappointing. It seemed like anybody needing to explore topics like "philosophy of nature" or "ethics of science" was out of luck, and had to rely heavily on the Interlibrary Loans Department which fortunately has since become a more responsive service due to nation-wide networking efforts.

Why this paucity of other than mainstream materials? From what I know about the book selection process, anything not firmly in the centre of a given subject area tends to go to the bottom of a big pile of potential orders. It is a puzzling but undeniable fact that a title in support of several subjects falls through the gaps of the library acquisitions net precisely because it is of general rather than narrow interest.

FPG work is of a very different nature. Grove's primary works are all extant in the UM libraries, though not necessarily in all editions. Criticism consists of a handful of books, theses, and articles most of which are also locally available. For Greve, published material is scant, and therefore consulting archival sources related to him, Freytag-Loringhoven, and their known or suspected acquaintances becomes an assiduous necessity. More than 95% of ploughing through a myriad of information in a vast array of archives and libraries are wasted efforts, since they rarely lead to any worthwhile discovery. But then there are the lucky occasions when important documents are found, and these enlightening moments make up for all the tedium suffered beforehand.

It has proven ineffective to have primary source perusal done by somebody else. There is an FPG scholar who sends out a minor army of assistants to do archival searching. What looks like an unfair advantage over my solitary endeavours is actually quite the opposite: despite their multitude, they have failed to find what I have discovered single-handedly. This is hardly amazing, because it takes years to develop a mind-network of major or minor associations which all take part in a successful information hunt, and sometimes in the most uncanny ways. A researcher with only a superficial knowledge of the subject simply fails to SEE, or rather, to make meaningful connections with evidence he actually has in front of his or her eyes. Similarly, for the actual studying of both traditional, printed sources and archival manuscripts the computer driven environment proves meaningless. It allows to locate relevant materials with far greater ease and speed than in previous times, but computers have no role in the intellectual process of absorbing and connecting what is important in the content. This crucial task so far still requires a specifically human presence. Therefore, the electronic technology remains essentially limited to a support function that neither replace older forms of recorded knowledge nor eliminate traditional teaching, learning and training of the mind. No matter how much faster the gathering of research data can be accomplished due to artificial intelligence and networking, the selection and digestion of facts into meaningful results imperatively continues to require organic, natural intelligence, and as it always has, much and possibly even more time. Countless hours of futile searching are still unavoidable, and yet, they are not without rewards if they result in a general widening of the horizon, and a deeper understanding of historical or abstract contexts. And this provides the necessary foundation for those creative or innovative endeavours which have advanced mankind and which academic environments have the task of fostering.

As to the question what academic libraries will look like in the 21st century, if there will still be any use for such quaint entities as books, and if academic librarians will continue to be needed to perform old functions in new wrappings, it must be admitted that opinions vary widely. In heated debates about "access versus ownership," it becomes clear that comprehensive or even moderately adequate acquisition of library materials in the old way has become an impossible dream of the past, and that an "access only" scenario is far from viable yet and therefore an equally impossible dream of the future. As in the case of the University of Manitoba Libraries, a mixture of the old and the new is what exists in reality, and will continue to exist in an endless spectrum of possible proportions. Though the libraries information databases no doubt will be increasingly accessed from computer labs, residences, or homes, librarians will be very much needed in the structuring, filtering, presenting, and retrieving of electronic information, and most of all, participating in database design. Apart from the one mentioned last, these functions are not fundamentally different from their traditional counterparts of evaluating, describing, organizing, and finding print materials. The professional title "librarian" with its old-fashioned connotations is already being replaced with fancier and often pompous terms like "information specialist, webmaster, knowledge navigator, database manager," and even "cybrarian".[9] Even more colourful titles will not fail to be invented. But no matter what one calls it, it is still the same old wine in a brand-new bottle, and for the basic intellectual tasks of processing, transmitting or retrieving information, some living, human intelligence must transform artificial intelligence into anything worthwhile using, -- "garbage in, garbage out" exemplifies this sad, but verifiable fact.

Will books, journals, and magazines disappear from the surface of our world in the near future? There are short-sighted enthusiasts of the new media who not only summarily declare that they will, but that they should. Unless most of the body of printed knowledge accumulated during previous centuries can be magically converted into electronic format, and unless we all can soon be uniformly and economically equipped with pocket computers allowing instant access to the electronic information highway, it is more likely that for some time to come the old and the new forms of communication will more or less peacefully coexist side-by-side.

The metaphorical use of the highway for today's fast travelling modes of communication is very appropriate and revealing. Nobody expects to see a horse-drawn vehicle on these multi-lane speed roads. Even weaker automobile species are in serious danger should they dare venture on a German Autobahn, traveled with murderous, unlimited speed. Yet, a 100 years ago, there were only unpaved dirt roads, and when cars eventually became a commodity for an ever increasing multitude, these were paved accordingly. But it took several decades before the car replaced the horse as a means of transportation. In fact, what did I find in the 1910 correspondence of the financial genius and multi-millionaire H. F. Chaffee, owner of the Amenia & Sharon Land Company? He lorded over the Bonanza Farm near Fargo which is described in Grove's autobiographical novels, and he was the proud owner of a Ford "Model A" since 1904, only a year after it was marketed. He indulged in more luxurious variations afterwards; but whenever it rained, out came the good old horse teams which were far better suited to travelling muddy North Dakotan roads. Old-fashioned and modern means of transportation were used concurrently then much in the same way as print-materials and electronic information are used today, especially since the still young information highway more often resembles muddy roads rather than smooth pavements. Have we not all been glad to fall back on tangible, bound resources when the net is down or decides to be difficult for whatever nebulous reason?

Like modern means of physical transportation, electronic communication has made the world a much smaller place. The internet, telnet, and e-mail connect minds instantly across the globe, bridging tall time and space divides with lightning speed. Yet, this way of connecting also strangely isolates matters of the mind from the reality perceivable by the five senses, and therefore replaces this old world of ours with a new world which is ethereal (German "ätherisch") in the true sense of the word.


[1]L. T. Kane, "Access vs. Ownership: Do We Have to Make a Choice," College & Research Libraries , 58, no. 1 (1997), 59.

[2]For instance, the Director of Libraries Carolynne Presser participated  as President of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) in the joint AUCC/CARL Task Force on Academic Libraries and Scholarly Communication which presented an acclaimed discussion paper "Towards a New Paradigm for Scholarly Communication" in 1995, and an excellent Final Report, "The Changing World of Scholarly Communication: Challenges and Choices for Canada," in November, 1996. Both documents can be easily retrieved, viewed, downloaded or printed from either the Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada's ( or CARL's websites (

[3]Bison can be directly accessed at "". Searching under the keyword option with "aucc and carl" retrieves the catalogue entries for the documents described in footnote 2, and "hot links" open up the full text versions at the click of the mouse or the push of a button.

[4]J. G. Neal, "Academic Libraries: 2000 and Beyond," Library Journal , (July 1996), 74.

[5]An, alas, fairly representative example is the dismal reduction of the so-called Weimarer Sophien Ausgabe of Goethe's works. This bibliographic treasure of some 150 volumes was lovingly and adequately described on no less than sixteen typed cards in the old card catalogue. A ReCon "hit" reduced that detailed account of this edition and its contents, which is arranged in complicated array of sections and subsections, to four lines of a truly meaningless reflection of the corresponding reality. From the entry gleaned in the OPAC it was not even discernable that this was indeed the famous edition in question, never mind what it contained.

[6]Once I discovered the deplorable loss of information generated by the ReCon treatment of this particular asset to the UM Libraries, I endeavoured to bring it back up to more reasonable standards, so that it is today fairly well described in BISON.

[7]Divay, Gaby. Nature, Fortune et Dieu dans Les Essais de Montaigne: analyse sémantique structurale (Diss., Université Laval, 1984).

[8]Grove, Frederick Philip. Poems/Gedichte by/von Frederick Philip Grove, Felix Paul Greve und Fanny Essler. Gaby Divay, Hrsg. Winnipeg: Wolf-Verlag, 1993. (Deutschkanadische Schriften, Reihe A: Belletristik, Bd. 13).

[9]"Internet Changes Field of Library Science," N.Y. Times News Service, Jan. 6, 1997; received from MLA News Mailing List,

Based on a paper originally presented at the
University of Manitoba/Trier Partnership Conference, Universität Trier, May 5, 1997,
& later published in
The University at the Turn of the Century: Canadian and German Perspectives: Essays in Honour of Herbert Zirker. Kiel: l&f Verlag, 1998, 35-50

How to cite this e-Version:
Divay, Gaby. Living & Learning in Revolutionary Times: From Cards to Bytes in Academic Libraries. e-Edition, ©August 2007 Accessed ddmmmyyyy [ex: 18aug2007]. [browser preview: 16 p.]

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