The University of Texas

Print to Electronic Timeline

Over the past 25 years, indexes, journals, books and other resources have become available in electronic format. As funding and careful collection development consideration allowed, UT Austin began investing in these new formats to provide value-added information to library users and researchers throughout the UT community. This timeline provides an overview of the ongoing transition from print to electronic, from physical items in buildings made of brick and stone, to full-text image files awaiting retrieval in databases or online journal sites accessible via the Internet.

Print to Electronic Timeline


When the Perry-Castañeda Library opened, library materials and services were available only in the library between 8am and midnight. Research was conducted in the library, and the card catalog was used to identify holdings.

Print Indexes Print indexes and bibliographies, the mainstay of the PCL reference collection, were the only keys to the contents of journals. Research was tedious and time-consuming - volume by volume, requiring a knowledge of subject headings or a good imagination in choosing the best search terms. There was one user per volume, and information was recorded by hand or photocopied. Boolean searching was still in the future.

In August, 1977, there were few databases, access was cumbersome, none was full-text, librarians did the searching, and the World Wide Web was 15 years in the future.

A Library Bulletin issue that year sums up well the pace and scope of equipment, services, and demand for database searching at the time:

"A new Texas Instruments terminal is located in Special Services. Due to the fact that on-line searches have increased, ERIC and Psych Abstract searches are now scheduled two weeks in advance. Lockheed searches are increasing and have averaged over 20 per month since January, 1977."

Special Services Department in PCL provides free searches covering the last two years of the ERIC (education) and PSYCINFO (psychology) databases.


Librarians in PCL Reference Services Department began using computer-based information services as a reference tool in fall 1980. Ready reference searches were used to verify citations; to answer requests for current information or other information not readily located in print sources; or to find information in materials not available in the University of Texas Libraries.

John Tongate, Head, PCL Reference Services Department, reported that the speed and ease with which information could now be located "had a positive impact on [reference] service to users and on staff morale."

Library Bulletin, July 4, 1985

Magazine Index The Reference Services Department has just received an important new research tool: The Business Index. Produced by the same company that produces the Magazine Index, the Business Index is notable in several ways. It is a computer output microform that is completely updated and replaced monthly. This means that a single lookup will retrieve all the articles under a given subject heading. It is the only general index to business topics which provides abstracts of selected articles.

Library Bulletin, November 13, 1980


CD-ROM Workstations The PCL Microcomputer Center, made possible by a grant from Project Quest, opened its doors December 2, 1985, with eleven IBM personal computers. [It] was seen as an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of microcomputer software and hardware in a library setting for the enhancement of teaching and research activities.

Library Bulletin, December 12, 1985

U-Search The Perry-Castañeda Library has a new "do-it-yourself" computer service in its microcomputer center that will help students search more than 50 databases, library officials said. The service, which began Monday, is called U-Search and is free to UT students, faculty and staff. U-Search provides access to materials in business, medicine, sciences, education, humanities, social sciences and general information. John Kupersmith, a PCL Reference Department librarian and a U-Search coordinator, called U-Search "a significant extension of our computer services." "This is the first time students will be able to actually search a large database," Kupersmith said. "This is a service with databases that are commercially available. You're not just searching a list of books, you're searching more or less the whole universe of information," he said.

DAILY TEXAN ARCHIVES, January 23, 1986

John Burlinson If you need articles on a subject covered by many indexes, if terms used in the printed indexes are not specific enough, or if you need very current data, a computerized information search may be a useful alternative. Librarians can search over 200 databases by computer to produce lists of articles, books, government documents, and technical reports on specific research topics. There are databases covering the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, plus some providing statistical information. The most sophisticated searches allow a great deal of flexibility in specifying a topic. Costs vary, usually ranging between $15 and $40.

"The General Libraries", supplement to the Daily Texan, October 15, 1985


Online may link UT library system

UTCAT Many UT students have noticed computer terminals popping up around campus in the last year. These terminals are part of the Online Catalog System, a new library service designed to increase student access to material on the shelves. The system was introduced in 1984 on a limited test basis in the Perry-Castaneda, Science and Engineering libraries as an eventual replacement for the traditional card catalog. In 1986 the Online system was made available to the general public. In the year it has been working, 2.9 million of the libraries' volumes have been cataloged in it. "Our goal is to have everything in the present card catalog into the Online," said Harold Billings, Director of University of Texas Libraries. The ultimate goal is to have the system linked directly with libraries in the other UT System schools, allowing students and faculty in the entire UT system to share their facilities. In addition to more than 70 terminals in the Undergraduate Libary and the PCL, Online already is accessible through terminals in the Data Processing Division, the Computation Center and by any personal computer with a modem.

DAILY TEXAN ARCHIVES, September 11, 1987

Improving University library system provides easy access

"The prime goal of our effort is to increase access to information, and we think users will be well served by the Online Catalog ..."

DAILY TEXAN ARCHIVES, November 17, 1987


Harold Billings Harold Billings named a Text Delivery Project Management Team in 1989. "This delivery system, which will include indexes and other appropriate databases, should represent leading-edge technical and programmatic considerations. This is a necessary next major step toward a UT Library Online Information System that will serve the present and future knowledge and information needs of local students and faculty as well as the state-wide and broader community of research and scholarship."

Library Bulletin, July 28, 1989


As development of the University of Texas Libraries Web page, UT Library Online, began to take shape, the buzzwords were: Internet, e-mail, file transfer protocols (FTP), Telnet, WAIS, newsgroups, Gopher, and World Wide Web.


"The full texts of articles in selected issues of 300 magazines and journals published from 1991 to [1994] are now available through UTCAT Plus. The Academic Periodical Index indicates which of the article titles produced by a search are available in full text. Users can then go immediately to the full text of the article without leaving their computers.

"Harold Billings described this expansion of UTCAT Plus services as 'still another step in our efforts to bring as much information as possible to our users when and where it is most convenient'."

Library Bulletin, April 22, 1994


UT Library Online was recognized by Point Survey as being among the top five percent of all Web sites on the Internet.


The Libraries now provide $2.5 million in licensed databases and full-text electronic journals annually to the UT Austin community. An additional $450,000 in licensed database resources are provided at no charge to the Libraries users through the TexShare consortium.

Electronic databases have largely supplanted the print indexes. Multiple simultaneous users for a single database covering a long time span, along with multiple access points and Boolean operators combine to keep the UT Library Online workstations busy. Information from citations to full text can be printed, downloaded, or emailed.

Librarians provide one-on-one assistance and advice on searching as well as special classes each semester on how to search effectively more than 200 databases and 100 million specially licensed scholarly full-text articles. The resources are now much more user friendly with most students, faculty, and staff accessing the information themselves. Searches can be done 24/7 from home, office, the library, or dorm room. No need to make an appointment two weeks in advance for a librarian to sit with you at a terminal in the library to do a costly search for merely a bibliography of sources, not full-text articles.

UT Library Online delivers the library to UT Austin students, faculty, and staff wherever they may be--home, office, or anywhere in the world, anytime. UT Library Online is now recording over 47 million queries each month. The Libraries have moved far beyond the number of searches or information sources ever imagined in 1977.



Perry-Castañeda Library
101 East 21st St.
Austin, TX. 78713

Phone: (512) 495-4350

Connect with UT Libraries

Facebook Twitter Instagram Tumblr Google Plus Flickr Pinterest YouTube

© The University of Texas at Austin 2016   UTDIRECT

CMS: Login