April 24, 2014

A Tale of Two Lives, Well Lived

I can’t say that 2013 was a great year for me and those close to me. And a couple of the low points were the passing of two great colleagues whom I have long admired. Both in the last several weeks of the year.

Photo by Barry Wheeler

Photo by Barry Wheeler

Steve Puglia died on December 10, 2013 after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. For a much more thorough and knowledgeable description of Steve’s life and contributions, I refer you to this Library of Congress post. From me you will get a personal memoir.

I first met Steve  at the famous School for Scanning run for many years by the Northeast Document Conversion Center (NEDCC). I remember him as being someone who personified the term “consummate professional”. His knowledge of digital capture was encyclopedic. And yet he also knew how to explain complicated topics simply and well. At my first School for Scanning I was in awe of all that I learned about the science and technology of imaging.

For many people, such knowledge would have made them arrogant, but not Steve. He remained approachable, generous, kind, and, to repeat, a consummate professional.

peterIn the late 1980s and early 1990s I was learning about the Internet and how it could be used in a library context. One of the first really useful tools to come along was HyTelnet, developed by Peter Scott, using software developed by Earl Fogel. Since an early use of the Internet was to use Telnet to connect to distant library catalogs this tool brought together directory information for those catalogs in one easy-to-use tool. The fact that this came out of the distant prairie lands of Saskatchewan seemed particularly appropriate given the world-shrinking effect of the Internet.

After long admiring his work from afar, I finally got the chance to meet Peter and even traveled to Saskatoon at his invitation to keynote the 1998 Access Conference. He continued to make his mark on the profession with directory services and an informative Twitter feed. Peter was one of those professionals who never met a tool he couldn’t figure out how to use, and after having done so, would use it to help others. Peter sadly passed away yesterday, December 30.

Two great and good digital library pioneers have left us. And we are vastly poorer for it.

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Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.

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