Throwback Thursday: The Mitchell Manual Mile

Throwback Thursday: The Mitchell Manual Mile

It’s that time around here – CLEANING Time! UGH! Most people only have to do “Spring Cleaning,” but in the library I have to do it whenever I get a chance. I was just going through old files and I ran across some material from a “Department Showcase” we did here in 2011. For the library display, I put out some of the Mitchell Manuals and showed examples of old data storage methods and how we acquired the data in the “good old days.” It’s always fun to see these old relics because it makes me sooooo thankful for the way things are now!

One of the items I came across was the “Bit O’ Trivia” exhibit that I made (did I mention the showcase was in March?). It included a sign stating the number of linear feet of shelf space that a customer would need to house a complete set of printed Mitchell Manuals. Then I stretched a green ribbon that distance along the wall so everyone could have a visual image of the shelf space these books required. It was fun to see the look on the employees’ faces when they saw the volume of Mitchell 1 repair data from that perspective. 

To get an idea of the space these books needed, take a look at the photo above. Do they look familiar? These are the “annuals” of the 1994 master set for domestic cars, light trucks and vans, and import cars. In addition to these, the complete set included several estimating guides and maintenance service books.

These manuals were super popular, but as they grew in size, more of our customers turned to our electronic OnDemand product for repair information. In fact, by the late 90’s, OnDemand had bypassed the printed manuals in units sold. It makes perfect sense when you think about the rising complexity of vehicles and huge growth of automotive data provided by OEMs. There was just too much information to squeeze into a printed book.

And the growth has continued at a breakneck pace. In 2003, Mitchell 1 was processing about 200,000 pages of information per year. We now process about 1.5 million pages of data annually and have over 28 million pages of information available in ProDemand™, our online repair information product that replaced OnDemand. And that doesn’t even include the millions of articles in SureTrack, the expert-based diagnostic module inside ProDemand. Can you imagine how many books all that data would fill up – and how many feet of shelving you’d need to store them all?

So today I’m feeling very grateful for computers and the ease and speed they add to our lives … and the weight they’ve eliminated from our shelves, both in the library and in our customers’ shops!

All of the data in those books — and TONS more — is now accessible in ProDemand anytime you need it. You can even get to it on a small electronic device you hold in your hands. Yes, something that sounded like science fiction at the height of Mitchell 1’s publishing days has become totally commonplace in today’s shop. What’s not to love about that!

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About the Author


MG is the Technical Librarian at Mitchell 1, responsible for Data Acquisition. She’s been with Mitchell 1 since 2010, has over 20 years of experience in her field and has been working “under the hood” since she could stand on the tire to look in. She’s also a rancher and a grandmother.