From Data Processing to Knowledge Engineering: The Impact of Automation on Public Services

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The title of this paper is a reminder that, although the name of the Clinic has remained the same for the past 25 years, the goals and means for the application of automation to public services have evolved. Although the term knowledge engineering is presently used to denote the process of building an expert system (Waterman, 1986, p. 5), dictionary definitions of the component words suggest a wider possible scope. While data can be defined as "a group of facts or statistics" (Webster's Dictionary, 1956, p. 210) and to process is defined as "to put through the steps of a prescribed procedure"" (American Heritage Dictionary, 1970, p. 561) or "to handle in a routine, orderly manner" (Random House Dictionary, 1980, p. 713), knowledge engineering covers a wider domain. Knowledge is defined variously as "familiarity, awareness, or understanding gained through experience or study" (American Heritage Dictionary, p. 393); or "that which is known; the sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered or inferred" (p. 393). Finally, engineering may be thought of as "the application of scientific principles to practical ends as the design, construction, and operation of efficient and economic structures, equipment, and systems" (p. 239). This review of the history of automation in public services, as documented in papers presented at past data processing clinics, reflects the change in emphasis over time from data to knowledge and from processing to engineering. This paper has five parts: a brief chronology of the clinics, an analysis of various public services and the effects of automation thereon, the roles of library staff, the effects on users, and future prospects.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDesign and evaluation of computer/human interfaces: issues for librarians and information scientists
EditorsMartin A Siegel
PublisherUniversity of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
StatePublished - 1988

Publication series

NameClinic on Library Applications of Data Processing
ISSN (Print)0069-4789


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