Thursday, March 3, 2011

Morris vs Taube, Information Science Pioneers and Adversaries

Jack Cassius Morris and Mortimer Taube were two brilliant librarians and information science pioneers who were born less than three months apart. Morris was born on this date (March 3) in 1911, and Taube was born on December 6, 1910. Morris died in 1954 and Taube in 1965.  Both men were innovators in the indexing and retrieval of information. Taube was an advocate of the computer-based Uniterm system of subject retrieval. Morris was a critic of that system and identified some of its flaws resulting in a harsh response from Taube. Taube is included in the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1978) and Morris is included in the Supplement to the Dictionary of American Library Biography (Libraries Unlimited, 1990). It is the entries about Morris and Taube in these two publications that alerted me to their contributions and to their disagreement over the best approach to the retrieval of information.  I was particularly taken by the entry about Morris written by Robert V. Williams. Due to his untimely death he was active in the library profession for a relatively short time. He achieved respect from his special library peers as the Chief Librarian for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Research Library from 1947 to 1954. I identify with Morris in several respects. We both attended the University of Illinois Library School; we both married women who were also graduates of that library school; and we both lived in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (me while I was Director of the Clinch-Powell Regional Library System).  While in Oak Ridge I became friends with Jack Bobb, Morris' successor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Research Library. Morris and Taube both have entries on the Pioneers of Information Science In North America website. The American Society for Information Science and Technology has a nice webpage on the History of Information Science.

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