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Library of Congress photo of Henriette AvramHenriette Davidson Avram didn’t set out to revolutionize libraries, but that’s what she did.

Born in Manhattan in 1919, Avram had visions of a career in medicine and began premedical studies at Hunter College in the 1930s. She switched gears to study mathematics at George Washington University after her family relocated to the the Washington, DC area in 1951.

In 1952, Avram began working at the National Security Agency, where her husband Herbert Mois Avram also worked. There, she learned computer programming as part of an early computer research program, which she later described as a “bootstrap operation.”

After a stint as a systems analyst at Datatrol Corporation, Avram joined the Library of Congress’ Office of the Information Systems Specialist in 1965. She was asked to lead a team tasked with analyzing cataloging data to determine if it could be computerized.

The team developed the MARC format, Machine Readable Cataloging,

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