A question for archivists with experience in the pre-Internet era

In a related, but different question that the one posed to researchers in the previous post, I would like the input of archivists with experience in the pre-Internet era. In the post targeted at researchers, I said:

… my hypothesis is that it is the easy and seemingly all-encompassing nature of information available on the web that has driven archivists to seek to provide online access to some level of information about all the holdings in their collections. My assumption is that prior to the Internet there was no assumption that such access would be possible, and that it was expected that there would be what we now call “hidden collections” which would have to be “discovered.”  (As opposed to today when archivists believe that our users expect that some level of intellectual access will be provided online for all materials, and that our users have an expectation that one easy search tool that reveals to them all the relevant materials across archives should be possible.)

My questions for you are:

    • Did the kind of backlogs that exist today exist in the pre-Internet era? If so, were they considered as much of a problem then as they are now (when we hear so much discussion about the need to eliminate them)? 
    • Do you agree that the primary driver in the current desire to describe all holdings at some level is the need to provide access to that information via the web? If not, what is?

Again, my thanks to you. You may think the answers to these questions are obvious, but I prefer to try to verify my assumptions. I’d rather look like an idiot by asking questions rather than by making incorrect statements. 


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