News Bureau Release - by John Reynolds - May 27, 1964
From the orderly and inventive mind of a onetime Kansas farmer boy, who today heads the University of Southern California’s Film Distribution Division, have come imaginative, computerized cataloguing techniques, which may revolutionize the nation’s education film libraries.
USC’s energetic Glenn McMurry, who lives in Culver City, first taught himself how to program an electronic computer and how to operate associate business machines. Then he "trained" the computer and the machines to handle the mountain of detail necessary in cataloguing, advertising, and distributing films and keeping a running record of the whole operation.
The efficiency of what is now known as "USC Systems Cataloguing" has been recognized in a very practical way: McMurry recently signed agreements with four prominent producers of educational films. These agreements gave USC distribution control over more than 800 individual films, which have been produced by Encyclopedia Britannica Films, McGraw-Hill, Churchill Films and Jenga Productions.
Beyond providing for USC’s distribution of the films, the contracts allow the University to collect off-the-top fees for such services and then apply even the rentals it collects toward the purchase of films from the respective companies. The purchase provision is not limited to the films on deposit with USC, but may be applied to others.
Experts, long trained in film distribution services, today credit McMurry-developed procedures with giving USC "the most efficient film distribution library in America." Yet this "most efficient" operation functions in a five-room, frame bungalow, borrows computer time from another University division and has just three full-time employees.
Development of USC Systems Cataloguing began more than five years ago with McMurry’s first experiments in automating cataloguing techniques with the use of punched cards and similar equipment, and extended to the computer. Techniques invented to date involve all phases of cataloguing from information preparation to inexpensive printing of film catalogues.
USC’s automated approach permits McMurry to get "instant reporting" concerning any film as to its title, print number, where previewed, to whom rented or sold, a summary of the film, transportation charges, and total charges.
The same techniques have been applied to the maintenance of detailed mailing lists.
From memory tapes, the computer will select all the churches, or all the churches in a given state; all the schools, etc., leading each address with "The Minister," "Audio Visual Director," or other appropriate title. While making its split-second selections, the computer will print out these designations on the reverse side of the paper on which a Newsletter will be printed later.
McMurry, who came to USC in 1950 to study and teach in the Department of Cinema, almost immediately was given the part-time job of running USC’s small film library, then composed principally of films which had been produced by the department itself.
In 1952, USC’s film library got a major boost when McMurry obtained more than a thousand new titles from the government—for just one dollar. Hundreds of these films have since been replaced and the University collection today boasts about 2,000 current titles.
Today McMurry’s job is full-time; his title, "Director of Film Distribution." He has one full-time assistant in Mr. George Wehbi, also of Culver City, who runs the film library, and one secretary.
But the character of McMurry’s work has changed with the automation he has brought it. Once a routine procedure, full of take-time humdrum, the position today is research-oriented as McMurry studies new ways to do what already is much easier in the doing.
Like the man who built a better mousetrap, McMurry is finding that the path to the doorway of his little frame house on the USC campus is followed increasingly by others who are responsible for educational film libraries.
"We have no secrets here," McMurry tells all comers. "Whatever we have learned is open and available to all."
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