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A Technology Timeline of Maryanne Blake’s Library Career

Posted by on September 29th, 2009 Posted in: Technology

1980 – In library school I thought: “Why do I have to take a class in computing? I am going to be working with people, not machines.”

1982 – As a trainee at the VA Medical Center in Washington DC learning to search MEDLINE was challenging, and FUN. The Texas Instruments Silent 700 with built in acoustic coupler printed the results on a roll of thermal paper while ripping along at 300 baud. No more searching through multiple volumes of Index Medicus.

Texas Instruments Silent 700 with Acoustic Coupler*

Texas Instruments Silent 700 with Acoustic Coupler*

1983-4 – I remember ELHILL. So many databases, so little time: MEDLINE, AVLINE, BIOETHICSLINE, POPLINE, CATLINE, SERLINE…

1985 – Moved to Seattle at the same time as NLM’s automated interlibrary loan request and referral system, DOCLINE, came into existence. Hurray – no more ALA ILL forms!

1986 – Grateful Med was introduced by NLM. Who will ever teach all those health professionals how to do end-user searching of MEDLINE? And who will explain the pricing structure for doing a search?

Grateful med 5 1/4 Disks

Grateful Med 5 1/4" Floppy Disks

1990 – MEDLINE on CD-ROM came to the Seattle Veterans Administration Medical Library. As a librarian there I was proud that we had the first CD-ROM tower in the medical center. We thought we were cutting edge.

1992 – I joined the NN/LM PNR as the Outreach Coordinator and became the person who was going to teach all those health professionals how to do end-user searching of MEDLINE and will explain the pricing structure for doing a search.

1992 – The first NN/LM PNR presentation was a talk about the Internet to OHSLA in Eugene, Oregon. Of course I had to figure out what the internet was before I talked about it. Thanks Kathy Murray and Peggy Burt for all your teaching and hands-on demonstrations before that talk. I couldn’t have done it without you.

1993 – I taught my first Internet class for librarians at PNC/MLA in Portland, Oregon with Leslie Wykoff from OHSU. We titled it “Down the Rabbit Hole” because it felt like at every turn you would meet strange and wondrous creatures like telnet (and Hytelnet), FTP, Archie, Veronica, and of course Gopher.

Early Cloud Computing

Early Cloud Computing

1993 – HLIB-NW, “a discussion list created and maintained by Maryanne Blake (blakema@u.washington.edu) and Michael Boer (boerm@u.washington.edu). It debuted on a NorthWestNet host in November 1993, with 80 charter subscribers.” It’s still going strong today.

1994 – The RML hosted the PILOT Connections Project in the Pacific Northwest, connecting some hospitals and their libraries to the Internet and the World Wide Web. Marcy Horner, one of the participants said that PILOT stood for “People In Lots Of Trouble.” All those librarians were Internet pioneers – Marcy Horner, Edean Berglund, Steve Rauch, Susan Long, Susie Holt, Judith Bendersky, and Cheryl Goodwin.

1995 … – Web browsers I have known and loved: Mosaic, Lynx, Cello, Opera, Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer (multiple versions), Mozilla, Firefox and now Safari for my Mac.

1995 – Michael Boer taught a class to librarians on how to make their “first home in HTML” and I discovered the power of creating web pages.

1996 – Internet Grateful Med (IGM) provided a user-friendly, Web-based interface to many NLM databases. And access was FREE to anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. Was I glad I didn’t have to explain Grateful Med pricing structure to people at conferences where the NLM and the RML exhibited? You bet!

1996… – The last paper issue of the Supplement, NN/LM PNR’s newsletter was published. Electronic issues, sent via email, had been produced since 1994. Renamed the Dragonfly in 1998, the newsletter got “blogged” in 2005. RSS feeds anyone?

Dragonfly, a gift from Dolores Judkins

Dragonfly, a gift from Dolores Judkins

1997 – PubMed, IGM’s rival, provided a Web-based, user-friendly way to search MEDLINE and other databases in NLM’s Entrez retrieval system. How do I explain the difference between IGM and this?

1999 – September 30, 1999, a sad day. Direct public access to ELHILL was no more. Goodbye “Stop Y and eng (la).”

The Red Book aka the ELHILL Bible

The "Red Book" aka the ELHILL Bible

1999 – Google came on the scene to challenge Alta Vista and Yahoo as a search engine. In eleven years “google” has become a verb and health professionals tell me they just “google it” when they need health information. Scary.

2001… – September, 2001, IGM bit the dust. PubMed is going strong with numerous redesigns; another one is coming soon (October of 2009 they say).

2009 – And the changes keep coming – Wikis, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, screencasts, YouTube, cloud computing, the list goes on. I feel fortunate that my colleagues here at the PNRML and medical librarians around the Pacific Northwest, and indeed around the country, are embracing the changes. As a matter of fact they are at the cutting edge of many of these trends in technology.

Ms. Caputo, thank you for great job you did leading me into the world of computers and technology back in 1980. I’m hooked!

*Thanks to Richard at www.xmission.com for permission to use the photo of the TI Silent 700

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Commenting (18)

Thoughts on "A Technology Timeline of Maryanne Blake’s Library Career"

You forgot “2000 – Met Patricia Devine and life was never the same”. Thank you, Maryanne, for all your work and all your knowledge and all your songs and your perspective. We will miss you terribly.

Avatar Alison Aldrich says:

Thank you, Maryanne, for so many things, but especially for your unfailingly positive attitude toward technology and change. Once I finally break down and get an iPhone, I’m coming over to your house so you can show me how to use it.

Avatar Cheryl Goodwin says:

Thanks for the journey through our past – I was also in library school in 1980. I’ve loved being your colleague during most of those years and changes!

Avatar Dolores Judkins says:

Maryanne, it won’t be the same without you! You’ve always brought energy and enthusiasm to each change, and helped many of us through them. But I have you beat. I started in 1977 when we used Telex machines to send the search to NLM, and a week or so later we’d receive a printout of citations.

Avatar marcy horner says:

Ah the memories! I remember trying to demonstrate Medline via the TI in Cottonwood, ID. The phone connection was so bad that everything was garbage. I commented that there must be too many birds on the phone lines, scaring all the little people that spread the messages ( paraphrase from Dr Science). The Administrator got up to look out the window … sure enough sixty blackbirds sagging the lines – he scared them off, and we had a connection!
Good luck Maryanne, and thanks for all your support over the last twenty years!

Avatar Michele Spatz says:

What a wonderful perspective on a stellar career. You’ve touched so many lives and really carried the powerful message of the importance of access to information to support medical decision-making for both health professionals and their patients. You’ve done this with both great grace and aplomb. I can so relate to many of your memories because I have similar memories. I thought I was hot stuff back at the University of Ilinois College of Medicine as a reference librarian in 1979/80 with my TI Silent 700. Our library also served as a beta test site for what would become NLM’s Docline – you’re right – we were so cutting edge 🙂 Congratulations on a brilliant career, Maryanne. I know you’ll keep your bright light shining in your next endeavor. And should I run across you on the road, I’ll gladly share a shuttle ride anywhere! All best, Michele

Avatar Jim Henderson says:

Thanks, Maryanne – I recall in the book “Where wizards stay up late”, a history of the Internet, the statement that computer programmers at NLM were using the Internet in 1970. In fact, it was librarians like you working with programmers, and they demanded database searching, not just games and e-mail. Here’s to your contributions linking technology and people through these exciting years of change!

Avatar Neal Van Der Voorn says:

As my professional library career is coming to an end in few weeks, it is interesting for me also to look back on my first experience with a computer as a student as a library science student at Emporia State University in 1976. In library system class we had to design a true or false and multiple choice question test on an old main frame computer. A typewriter keyboard was hooked up to the main frame. It lacked a monitor. Instead there was a sheet of paper. There was a 10 second delay between the time a key was hit, and the letter appeared on paper.

The Washington State Library provided us in the DSHS branches with the first PC computer in 1990 and dialup access to Dialog for database searches in 1991. Medline and WLN’s Lasercat on CD-ROM came in 1993 and followed by Internet access the several years later. WLN was OCLC’s predecessor in the Pacific Northwest.

Thanks Maryann for the technology memories.

Avatar Sandy Keno says:

Congratulations, Maryanne, on a fabulous career! I love your timeline reflections, and can add that the first desktop computer in Sacred Heart’s Library was purchased in 1986. Medline could only be accessed by the Reference Librarian because of the per minute dial up searching charges and her exclusive knowledge of command searching. No interruptions allowed during search times! The printer was a dot matrix continuous feed model with green striped paper. Thanks for the memory walk and all you helpful advice over the years!

Avatar Susan Barnes says:

OMG, this brings back memories! Anyone remember what a big deal it was when the year’s new Annotated MESH and Permuted MESH arrived? Careful strategy planning to minimize connect time charges? Getting “bumped off” in the middle of a search and losing all the work? Hedges? Pre-explodes? Maryanne, you’ve caused my Codger Talk feature to be activated. I’ll miss you so, not just because we can reminisce about “string searching” but mainly because you’re such a pleasure and an inspiration to work with.

Avatar Susan Long says:

Maryanne, Thank you for your leadership & collegial support over these years. It is highly unlikely I would have made it through all those technology changes without your patience (all my whine/whine/whine & a few wines), counsel and encouragement. I literally would not be where I am today without you. Susan

Avatar Boo Horak says:

Here’s a different “technology” memory. Remember the time (1992?)when you and Linda and Nancy Press convinced me that it would be so easy to take the DC train system from the airport to our MLA hotel? Best trip I ever had, in spite of my 50 lb suitcase! Best wishes on your retirement.

Avatar Pam Miles says:

Dear Maryanne,
Thank you for your library technology blast from the past. I guess we librarians as a group adapt pretty well to change, don’t we? I will miss your excitement and enthusiasm for new technology and changing times. I am sure you have many interesting ways planned to enjoy your retirement – Grandchildren! Reading! Sleeping in! Cooking! I can’t wait until it is my turn.
I hope to see you occasionally at some library event.
Pam Miles

Avatar Heidi Sue says:


All great Pacific Northwest technology advents can pretty much be traced back to you…what an impact you’ve had on all of our region’s libraries and librarians! How wonderful and humbling at the same time. Kudos to you, Maryanne. Kudos. I think this is just a small proof of the impact you’ve made. Thanks for the trip down memory lane – I loved the DekWriter! That thing was cool! And to think I still miss certain parts of using it to this day. My computer doesn’t shake and wiggle these days, how boring. Maryanne – I am going to miss you tremendously. Thank you for your welcoming presence and assistance all these years. Best wishes always, HS

Avatar Kathy Murray says:

Maryanne – the library world is losing a great advocate and trainer. One thing I remember (having begun my career in Seattle in 1977) was sharing the VA’s second Medlars ID with all the other hospital librarians in town. We’d call each other if we had a rush search and needed to get online during someone else’s schedule time. It was a luxury to get one for my own hospital library … which could only be done after completing a week-long online searching course sponsored by NLM and taught by Nancy Blaze at UW.

See you in Seattle!

Avatar Terry Jankowski says:


Wow! All that history in a nutshell. Thanks for the memories!
And you didn’t even get into the technology changes for teaching?! Remember how that thermal image paper used to fade? My first professional article was how we used and overhead transparency film in place of it and could display the search on an overhead projector. And now Ann has us using SmartBoards!

I’m always looking for role models and you are definitely at the top of my list. Your attitude and enthusiasm for teaching, libraries, and technology serve as a shining beacon for the rest of us.

Avatar Christina Seeger says:

Some of your best “technology” skills are how you relate to people. My first memory of you is a booth at OLA just after I started library school. How cool to find out that I really could put my background in healthcare to use in my new career. I stopped by the booth multiple times during the conference and left knowing that I wanted to become a Medical Librarian! Thank you for your time and patience, and all I have learned from you since that day in 2004.

Avatar Mia Hannula says:

Thank you for leadership and support as Chief of Library Service at the VA. I will miss your enthusiasm! As for technology, I seem to remember that you brought to work one of the early Apple computers. I had never used a mouse before. Talk about cutting edge.

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