Morris Cohen – spitfire legal librarian, RIP

I first became aware of Morris Cohen because he has the same name as my grandfather only spelled slightly differently. We exchanged emails a few times and I finally met him at Yale when I was in town for the Reblaw conference. He went out of his way to find a time we could have coffee and chitchat about quasi-radical librarianship and he made an impression on me as both a deeply principled and interesting person as well as someone who cared about mentoring and passing on his legacy. I was saddened to learn of his passing this week. There are good obituaries available at the New York Times and Library Journal.

remembering Norman Horrocks

Norm Horrocks died last week and I’ve been thinking about him all week. When I told my boyfriend about Norm’s passing, he asked “Is that the guy you introduced me to who yelled ‘Yoo hoo’ at us from the golf cart at PLA?” and I said it was. Norm, always eager to make people feel happy and welcome, had spotted me and wanted to make sure I spotted him. He made quite an impression.

I first met Norm when I was serving on ALA Council where he took me aside and assured me that it wasn’t as confusing as it looked and that I could make valuable contributions there. I was lucky to get to spend time with him at the Nova Scotia Library Association conference in Antigonish a few years ago, where he gave me a Dalhousie pin to wear and we reflected on how much we both loved Nova Scotia. Norm could always make you feel like you were integral to the profession and that he was the profession’s smooth and dashing liason to you personally.

Every time I’d run into Norm at library functions, he was a delight and brightened my day. He was charming and cultured which made a great backdrop for his goofy jokes and wry asides. He deeply cared about libraries, library associations and especially librarians. He seemed to make it his personal mission to be an emmisary for librarianship, to make sure newer librarians had a good “user experience” within the profession.

At the same time as he was charming us all, he was doing the work. His background includes a stint in British Army intelligence the director of Dalhousie University’s library school and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2006. Reading through people’s blog posts about him (1, 2, 3, 4), you can’t help but be struck by the warmth, generosity and kindness that Norm passed to to every single person he interacted with.

People are leaving rememberances of Norm at ALA Connect, CLA Toolbox, and this wikispaces page. ALISE has set up a slideshow. Donations can be made to the Dalhousie-Horrocks National Leadership Fund in Norm’s memory if you are so inclined. As one of the blog commenters said on one of the many memorial posts “He was the best of us” and he will be deeply missed.

Judith Krug, 1940 – 2009 champion of intellectual freedom

We’re starting National Library Week on a bittersweet note with an obit in Library Journal for Judith Krug. Judith Krug was a huge personal inspiration for me since before I even started library school. She had been the head of the ALAs Office for Intellectual Freedom since before I was born. She was a no compromise defender of intellectual freedom, and a very politically minded and savvy woman who showed us all how it’s done. She had to put up with an incredible amount of nonsense and vitriol by people who did not agree with her positions and yet she kept fighting for the rights guaranteed by the Constitution includng the rights of children. Here are a few links to neat things by/about her that you might want to read and reflect on.

Her energy, humor and tireless spirit will be sorely missed.

Celeste West’s obit in the SFGate

Celeste West’s obituary is up on the SFGate website with a link about who to contact about the memorial, noting “If you cannot donate, no worries, you can creatively agitate for peace and justice, and follow your bliss.”

in memoriam, Celeste West, revolting librarian

I was saddened today to hear of the death of Celeste West; my sincere apologies if you are hearing about it here first. Celeste, no relation to me, was one of the two fiesty authors of the original Revolting Librarians back in 1971. She wrote the introduction to our follow-up, Revolting Librarians Redux and really pushed us to think about ideas such as copyright and the whole idea of publishing through another company as opposed to doing it ourselves. Her answering machine, which I frequently spoke to in those days said something to the effect of “Send me a sunbeam” and though I’d like to think our back and forth conversations about licensing and releases fit the bill, I suspect they may not have.

In addition to her library writing with dry titles such as The Public Library Mission Statement and Its Imperatives for Service, she also wrote Lesbian Love Advisor and Lesbian Polyfidelity. She was also the first editor of Synergy a newsletter for SFPL’s experimental Bay Area Reference Center. Celeste discussed the relationship between the city’s transforming culture and the local library activities.

She described the city as “a trend-mecca–whether it be communal living, campus riots, gay liberation, independent film making … you name it and we’ve got it.” But what San Francisco had, she argued, was not reflected in library collections unless somebody took the time to pull together “the elusive printed material.” Thus, Synergy began examining the nature of library card catalogs, indexes, and selecting tools because its staff believed that such tools were mostly “rear-view mirrors” that provided little or no bibliographic access to the public’s current information needs. [library juice]

And, like any activist, her accomplishments expand well beyond this brief list of specifics. As her friend Judy said in her email to me “I hope someone will do a piece on her pirate queen life and what she has done to make libraries a little bit freer.” and I hope the same. There is a brief piece on the SF Zen Center blog, where she was a librarian from 1986-2006, with a grinning photo of her and a bit more information about an upcoming memorial service, should you be in the Bay Area and want to pay your respects.