My brother Dave died on Feb. 25. He was seven years older than me, and I followed him into the profession of systems librarian, though by a different route than his.
Ten years ago I was coming to grips with the fact that I wasn’t going to make it as a medieval historian. I thought I saw a way forward in scholarly electronic publishing: there were several useful CD-ROM full-text databases and bibliographies coming on the market at the time, and I had always enjoyed the technology.
In the summer of 1995, Dave and my wife and I travelled in England and the continent for a couple of weeks. On the bus between Hereford and Gloucester I described my plans to him, and he told me how they were handling CD-ROMs in the library where he worked: copying them onto hard drives and networking them for faster access. You can do that? He told me that the CD was a temporary medium, and that the future of these resources was on the Web. And he told me about the work he was doing on automating links to document delivery systems (what eventually became the first version of Godot, a forerunner of today’s OpenURL-based linkresolvers).
Until that conversation I had ignored libraries as a career option, having only the vaguest sense of what Dave did. For the first time I understood that libraries had an interesting role to play in mediating the flow of scholarly information – and that the technology could be even more fun in that environment. On Dave’s advice I took an MLIS, still thinking that my future would be in publishing. He didn’t push me; it was library school that really got me interested in libraries.
When I got my first job and started going to conferences, I met people who knew Dave, and I began to realize just what an innovator he was – both for Godot and earlier for Aviso, the ILL system he wrote and marketed (which I had thought of simply as the means by which he acquired his sailboat). It was a big thrill when he was invited to a symposium at my institution, and he was being introduced as my brother for a change. Since his death a week ago, I’ve had several wonderful messages from people who liked and respected him.
I’m in a good place: doing work I love, always challenged and never bored. Dave is partly to thank for that, and this blog is partly a reaction to his death. It’s time to think more about what I do, to try to see the wider context.
I hope to write more about Dave’s contributions in the future, or to cooperate with anyone else who knew his work firsthand and who would like to put their memories on record.