Helga Schmid

Born: June 15, 1941 | Marburg an der Lahn, DE

Helga Schmid begins her oral history interview by discussing her interest in information sciences. After studying mathematics and physics at the Vienna University, she relocated to Belgium and she began training to be a computer programmer. In 1969 she joined the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]. While there Schmid helped publish the first International Nuclear Information System Atomindex. In 1975, she moved on to the International Information System for the Agricultural Sciences and Technology (AGRIS). In 2000, she retired, after rising through the organization to become the head of AGRIS Processing. Schmid concludes the interview by discussing briefly her knowledge of AGRIS in its present state and sharing some of the positive experiences she had throughout her career as a computer analyst.

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0207
No. of pages: 27
Minutes: 151

Interview Sessions

W. Boyd Rayward
14 June 2000

Abstract of Interview

Helga Schmid begins the interview by discussing the growth of her interest in the world of information. While attending the Vienna University, she studied mathematics and physics and also worked on gaining her teaching certification. However, after meeting her husband, she relocated to Belgium and worked for Euratom (European Atomic Energy Community), where she began training to be a computer programmer. In 1969 she and her family moved back to Vienna and she joined the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). While there, under the direction of Giampaolo Del Bigio, Schmid helped publish the first INIS (International Nuclear Information System) Atomindex. In 1975, she moved on to AGRIS (International Information System for the Agricultural Sciences and Technology) where she worked with varying software and helped the fledgling organization to organize and evolve its technological programs. In 2000, she retired, after rising through the organization to become the head of AGRIS Processing. Schmid concludes the interview by discussing briefly her knowledge of AGRIS in its present state and sharing some of the positive experiences she had throughout her career as a computer analyst.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1964 Vienna University PhD Mathematics

Professional Experience

European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom)

1966 to 1968
Postdoctorate Fellowship
1966 to 1969
Scientific Programmer

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

1969 to 1975
Programmer/Analyst for INIS

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

1975 to 1981
Programmer/Analyst for AGRIS
1981 to 2000
Head of AGRIS Processing

Table of Contents

Early Interests in Mathematics and Physics
1

Interest in mathematics and physics lead towards a career in teaching. Met husband at Vienna University. Relocation to Belgium and computer programmer training at Euratom. Return to Vienna; position at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Computer Programmer for IAEA
2

Work under the supervision of Giampaolo Del Bigio; first INIS Atomindex. Work with incoming INIS data, including checking and production of the INIS master file. Retrieval systems, such as IRMS (Information Retrieval and Management System).

Responsibilities at IAEA
5

Photocomposition method for IAEA indexes. IAEA Thesaurus, drawing on first Thesaurus, created by Euratom. Launching the system.

Transfer to FAO under AGRIS and Early Operational Glitches
7

Transfer to AGRIS for personal reasons. Computer processing of the AGRIS data. Corrections for AGRIS data in Vienna and additions to the system. Making the software multilingual.

Problems with AGRIS Location and Retirement
16

Proposal to move AGRIS to Rome. Motivation drops in Vienna at AGRIS headquarters. AGRIS processing unit closes. Retirement due to AGRIS management changes.

Professional Recollections
20

Positive and negative experiences during the time at AGRIS. Thoughts on changes in the information world. Anecdotes on encounters between executives and programmers.

Index
24

About the Interviewer

W. Boyd Rayward

W. Boyd Rayward is a research professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Chamapaign. He turned to librarianship after graduating in English literature from the University of Sydney. He received his PhD from the Graduate Library School at the University of Chicago in 1973. He has held positions in the University of Chicago (where he became Dean of the Graduate Library School). He served as professor and head of the School of Information Library and Archive Studies and Dean of the University's Faculty of Professional Studies at the University of New South Wales in Sydney where he is now professor emeritus. He has published two books related to Paul Otlet, Belgian documentalist and internationalist, and a great many articles on history of national and international schemes for the organization and dissemination of information.