Douglas Foskett

    After six years of war service, I rejoined Ilford Public Library service in 1946, and set about completing my F.L.A., begun in 1940. This service had a good tradition of assistance to readers, and when I joined the Metal Box C. in 1948, I soon realised how the skills required for a scientific and industrial research “information officer” depended on the basic techniques of librarianship, notably classification and cataloguing. The enhancement of these led to the development of higher levels, in literature searching, and, more particularly, in current awareness service and selective dissemination of information.
    The Research Division Library of Metal Box Co. served all of the factories as well as scientific staff and we published an “Information Letter” which included readable abstracts of current sci-tech literature in a form appropriate for busy executives and factory live superintendents. “Presentation of scientific and technical information”, building on librarianship skills, gave me the magic opportunity to be amoung the Pioneers of the emerging paradigm of which came to be known as “Information Science”, and I meant to proclaim this in the title of my book “Information Service in Libraries”, 1958.
    Meeting with S. R. Ranganathan in 1948 gave me a new view of classification as facet analysis plus traditional generic analysis and I applied this in schemes for Packaging, Occupational Safety and Health, and Education. This experience has suggested to me that facet analysis applied to any subject can reveal hitherto uncoordinated concepts - materials, processes, etc – and thus offer an indication of possible areas of future research. This could be a unique Information Science to the World Wide Web.
    I cannot recall any special moment when I exclaimed “Eureka” and rushed, like Archimedes, naked into the street. The opportunity to be present when new ideas were around, and old methods were being adopted and improved, gave me many special moments, for which I am very grateful. It was for this reason that I entitled my Presidential Address to the Library Association of the UK, “A Debtor to His Profession” – the most special moment of all. 

Note: Douglas Foskett died in 2004, after a long career in the information field.  A lengthy obituary and biographical sketch of him appears in Library + Information Update, July/Aug., 2004.  

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