In celebration of Ada Lovelace Day, I am posting this short blog post on a female librarian, Suzanne Briet, the author of “Qu’est-ce que la documentation? (What is Documentation?). For those who do not know Ada Lovelace, she was ‘the world’s first computer programmer, and the first person to realise that a general purpose computing machine such as Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine could do more than just calculate large tables of numbers.’
- Read more about Ada Lovelace in the Guardian news article today.
Getting back to Briet, in her manifesto published in 1951, she argued that the antelope in the wild is not a document but the antelope in the zoo is. If you ever hear “Is the antelope a document or not?,” now you know that the antelope example comes from Briet’s manifesto.
Unfortunately, this idea of the document antelope was often wrongly attributed to Michael Buckland, a professor at the School of Information, University of California, Berkeley, who actually introduced Briet to many students in library and information science.
About Suzanne Briet’s manifesto, Michael Buckland wrote:
In her manifesto, “What is Documentation?” Briet argued that the scope of Documentation extended beyond text to evidence and she defined “document” as any material form of evidence.
According to Briet, the antelope in the zoo was a document just as much as the stone in the museum or the photo of the star in the sky.
For more information, see:
- The Suzanne Briet page in Wikipedia
- What is Documentation? (English Translation)
- Qu’est-ce que la documentation? (Original Manifesto)
- Ronald E. Day, Suzanne Briet: An Appreciation
- Danah Boyd, Suzanne Briet: madame documentation and librarian extraordinaire
Happy Ada Lovelace Day, everyone!