Remembering Deanna Marcum

Remembering Deanna Marcum

Deanna Marcum
Photo courtesy ITHAKA S+R

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Deanna Marcum in August. Deanna was CLIR’s first president and led its two predecessor organizations—the Council on Library Resources and the Commission on Preservation and Access—before their merger in 1997. Throughout a remarkable career spanning decades, she touched the lives of many as a colleague, friend, mentor, visionary, and leader. At CLIR, we remember her life with admiration and gratitude, but mourn a profound loss. 

We have created this page as a place where colleagues and friends can share their remembrances. Additions are welcome and can be sent to Kathlin Smith

I had the privilege of working with Deanna for over 25 years. Her sage and resourceful leadership of CLIR was an important draw for me to become a candidate to be her successor, excited by the strength of the programs she had built and daunted by the high expectations she had established. Deanna was especially brilliant at building coalitions, holding a mirror up to the profession for deeper insights, identifying salient research topics for investigation, and innovating new and timely programs. The Frye Leadership Institute (now the Leading Change Institute) and the Kanazawa Institute of Technology (KIT) Roundtable, both of which I have had the great pleasure to participate in, are landmarks to her acumen of taking critically important values and applying them to real world challenges, building trust and respect, and promoting a diversity of ideas and perspectives that continue to invigorate our profession. She is profoundly missed, but lives among us as a lasting influence upon and exemplar of our better nature.

—Charles Henry, President, CLIR

I do not remember exactly when Deanna and I first met, but I cannot forget and I cannot overstate the profound impact she had on academic librarianship and research writ large. Unlike many other brilliant thinkers Deanna had a unique way of analyzing problems and issues and conveying her thoughts that made others feel as if the solutions were theirs. I was privileged to participate in one of the Kanazawa Institute of Technology Roundtables that she organized, this one on copyright, which was an extraordinary experience for the presenters as well as the many participants. Visionary, transformative catalyst, and a genuinely gracious and thoughtful human being, Deanna will be missed personally by so many people and the profession will be poorer for the loss of her many gifts.

—Paula Kaufman Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries Emerita and University Librarian Emerita, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Deanna changed my life in 1997 when she both invited me to participate in the Kanazawa Institute of Technology Roundtable and persuaded me to join her at CLIR and help launch the Digital Library Federation. In doing so, she opened my eyes to a bigger world and to the meaningful roles that I could play in it. I quickly learned that opening eyes was one of her superpowers and I was just one of its many beneficiaries. In the years that followed, I often turned to Deanna for advice. Wise and experienced, she would usually offer exactly the guidance that I needed. But, even more importantly, she never failed to offer encouragement and support, which she knew that I, as a friend and fellow human, needed even more than the right answer. Like others, I have tried to emulate her unfailing sense of care and grace, but rarely have met the high standard she set for herself. What I admired most about Deanna was her reach. Through CLR, CLIR, the Library of Congress, Ithaka, and her many other roles, she touched so many friends, colleagues, and organizations. She always tried, and often succeeded, in making them better. I know that I am not alone in taking Deanna’s example as an obligation to make better the lives that we touch. It is in the ways that we try to fulfill this obligation that we hold Deanna “in the light.” I am grateful for the gift of knowing Deanna, and her spirit remains an inspiration.

—Donald Waters, former Senior Program Officer of the Mellon Foundation

Deanna’s leadership, wisdom, and vision have been integral to the transformations in research and academic librarianship of the last four decades. I had the privilege and great pleasure of knowing Deanna through those decades, beginning with our time as colleagues at the Association of Research Libraries in the 1980s, and I witnessed with awe and delight each profound step she took in her career since. With each major leadership role--in library education, at CLIR, at LC, at Ithaka—she boldly took on new challenges and shaped innovation with such elegance and brilliance that initiatives and success seemed (only from the outside, of course) to flow effortlessly from the many initiatives she steered. Her unique combination of toughness and grace, honesty and tact, drive and compassion made her a mentor and role model for all who knew her. Deanna sparkled and inspired; it was a joy to be in her company. We have lost a great leader, a bright light, and a lovely, cherished friend.

—Carol Mandel, Dean Emerita, New York University Division of Libraries

Deanna Marcum and I met, if my memory is sure, at the Wayzata Conference on Retrospective Conversion in the late Spring or Summer of 1975 (or so). It was clear from that first meeting that she and I had considerable professional concerns and principles in common. Over the years Deanna and I had numerous occasions to speak, to plan, and to advocate for programs and projects of meaning and benefit to the practices of research librarians. As she was a born leader, her roles as president of the Council on Library Resources and president of the Commission on Preservation and Access, two organizations that she merged to strengthen each, proved prescient to her subsequent roles as Dean of the Library School at Catholic University and then as Associate Librarian of Congress for Library Services. It was in this latter role that she demonstrated the quality of her leadership, of her innovative spirit, and of her influence on both the Library of Congress and the research library community. Decisions she made in that latter role are still unfolding to the benefit of the global community of libraries. Personally and corporately, Deanna was a profound friend and advisor. She served as a member of the Advisory Committee of the Stanford University Libraries in a time of profound changes. For that service, we here are most grateful. Deanna Marcum was a member of that first cohort of strong women leading libraries and advocating for both change and effective operations. Among those are Penny Abell, Dorothy Gregor, Elaine Sloan, and Pat Battin, a group of influential leaders who get scant attention in the literature of research librarianship, but deserve great understanding and praise. Deanna was devoted to her family and to her friends. She will be missed and I among those who will miss her.

—Michael A. Keller, Stanford University Librarian

Deanna Marcum was a radical in a notably conservative profession. She had very high standards for herself and for others. This chafed some, but it was key to her extraordinary influence. She had a strong vision of the role libraries and archives play in supporting access to information, the necessary condition for a self-governing people.   I met her when she became director of special collections at the Library of Congress, and in 1997 she asked me to join her at the newly formed CLIR. Those was a turbulent times—the digital wave was just breaking on the shores of higher education—and Deanna more than met the moment. She knew libraries had to adapt posthaste or risk being left behind, a mere relic in jeopardy of permanent obsolescence. At the same time, she understood that stewardship of cultural resources, analog or digital, was a burden that only libraries and archives would undertake. She had a strategy for bringing libraries and their precious cargo safely into the digital world. Not everyone was eager for change. I remember her resolve in the face of sometimes personal attacks. That was my first glimpse of Deanna the radical, steadied by her deep commitment to civil society. It was a precious gift, only one of many she gave me as friend and mentor.

—Abby Smith Rumsey, Writer and Historian

Deanna Marcum was a remarkable visionary, leader, librarian, and friend. I was blessed to know and associate with her in various ways for 45 years. I well remember my first sustained work with Deanna, in 1975 in Atlanta, when I attended the ARL workshop she was leading for young professionals. I was skeptical about the utility of such an exercise; but Deanna made the experience so substantive as well as fun that I felt an immediate bond with her—a bond that grew as we advanced in our library careers.  Our professional lives became even more entwined when Deanna came to work with me at the Library of Congress exactly 30 years ago. Her arrival was very timely since, as director of LC’s extraordinary special collections, we needed someone with her vision, drive, and ability to inspire (and corral some reluctant) curators to launch and advance the American Memory program. It was a very sad day when she came to tell me she was leaving LC to head the Council on Library Resources; but as a member of the CLR board, I recognized how fortunate we were that CLR would have the inspirational and transformational leader that the organization sorely needed at that point. Among my most vivid memories of that transition was participating in a retreat Deanna organized early in her tenure, designed to “re-imagine” CLR. Most of the participants were renowned leaders from the generation of librarians older than we, and they were not convinced that anything needed to be “re-imagined.” But in the end, Deanna’s vision, determination, and persuasive powers won the day:  and CLR became CLIR, reflecting new ways of thinking about and engaging a broader range of knowledge communities.  When she was selected to succeed me as Associate Librarian at LC, I was both excited and relieved—relieved to know that the library was in experienced, strong hands that would continue to move LC into the 21st century.  And that’s exactly what happened—no surprise, but a decade full of progress as Deanna led the continued opening of LC’s unparalleled resources to the world. I miss her. I miss her wisdom, her friendship, her sharp wit, and that wonderful laugh. RIP, Deanna. You changed our profession, and you changed our lives.

—Winston Tabb, Dean of University Libraries, Johns Hopkins University

Deanna and I occupied neighboring offices in the Madison Building of the Library of Congress in the early 1990’s, when she served as the director of Public Service and Collection Management and I as the director for Cataloging.  It was an opportunity to see a woman of steel, of breadth of intellect and experience, close up, and to savor her tart zingers deflating overly pompous people.  As she packed up her office in 1995 to depart to head up the Council on Library Resources, she thrust a souvenir gift from a Japanese visitor, a roly-poly doll that, no matter how hard it was buffeted,  bobbed and righted itself. Deanna observed wryly: “This doll is just like us.”  Certainly Deanna embodied the qualities associated with the doll: the ability to overcome adversity and to achieve success despite hard knocks.  I carried that doll from job to job, an inspiration to persevere in the face of challenges and a constant reminder of Deanna’s perspicacity, kindness, intelligence, and resilience.

—Sarah Thomas, Cornell University Librarian Emerita (1996-2007); Bodley’s Librarian, University of Oxford (2007-2013); Vice President for Harvard Library (2013-2019)

I first met Deanna when I was appointed CEO of the National Library and Archives of the Province of Quebec, in 2009, and I had the privilege of continuing my exchanges with her in 2014, when I was appointed Librarian and Archivist of Canada. For me, Deanna embodied LoC: she was the one who attended IFLA and the Conference of Directors of National Libraries (CDNL) gatherings to meet with her colleagues from other countries. Despite the difference in size and prestige of our two national libraries, Deanna never treated me as inferior. She was always generous with her advice and forthcoming with her collaboration. She was a great lady at the heart of a great institution. RIP.

—Guy Berthiaume C.M., Librarian and Archivist of Canada Emeritus; Vice President of the Board, CLIR
At the time of her passing, Deanna was senior advisor at ITHAKA S+R. Read her colleagues’ remembrances here

 

 

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