School of Information
Previously School of Library & Information Studies
Pioneer of Information Management.
was born in Brussels, Belgium, in 1868. His monumental book
Traité de documentation. (Brussels, 1934)
was both central and
symbolic in the development of information science - then called
"Documentation" - in the first half of this century. In
addition, it reminds us of something that has been too widely
forgotten: That this field did have a lively existence in the
early decades of this century and a sophistication concerning
theory and information technology that now commonly
Paul Otlet was the most central figure in the development
of Documentation. He struggled tirelessly for decades with
the central technical, theoretical, and organizational aspects of
a problem central to society: How to make recorded knowledge
available to those who need it. He thought deeply and wrote
endlessly as he designed, developed, and initiated ambitious
solutions at his Institute in Brussels.
Towards the end of working life he summarized his ideas in two
large books of synthesis, the Traité de documentation
in 1934 and Monde: Essai d'universalisme in 1935.
In recent years there has been a renewed interest in Otlet's work.
In 1989 the Traité, so long out of print, was in reprinted.
In 1990 his biographer, Prof W. Boyd Rayward, of the University
of New South Wales, published an annotated English translation of a selection of
Otlet's best writings:
Otlet, Paul. International Organization and Dissemination of Knowledge:
Selected Essays. (FID 684). Amsterdam: Elsevier,
Now Otlet's ideas and writings are again
an active ingredient in information science, having historical
interest and also a contemporary interest in relation, for example,
to the nature of documents and of hypertext.
It is now a century since Otlet and
began their ambitious
program which continues as the International Federation for Information
(Adapted from the Preface to the Spanish edition of
Otlet and LaFontaine were also active in the founding of the
Union of International Associations.
Otlet's archives and museum
is now available again at Rue des Passages 15,
B-7000 Mons,in Mons, Belgium, as
which has started to publish research based on these archives,
notably Cent ans de l'Office International de Bibliographie :
1895 - 1995 ; les premisses du Mundaneum. - Mons : Editions
Mundaneum, 1995. ISBN 2-930071-05-2.
List of selected writings about Otlet,
his work, and his successors.
- Alex Wright. Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet
and the Birth of the Information Age. Oxford University Press, 2014.
- Francoise Levie: L'homme qui voulait classer le monde [The man who wanted to classifiy the
the world]. Biography and
- Rayward's 1975 biography is now available online at
- Documentary by B. Rayward (speaking English) and F. Fueg (speaking French): Alle kennis van de wereld
(Noorderlicht, 9). Available at
- A wry comment from France:
America discovers Paul Otlet.
History of Information Management or to Michael Buckland's