Dean of libraries receives award


Constance Sarantos

Portrait of John Wilkin, dean of libraries and University librarian receives the Hugh C. Atkinson Memorial Award for contributions to library automation.

By Sara Pietrzak, Contributing Writer

John Wilkin, dean of libraries and one of the faces of the modern library automation movement, is receiving the Hugh C. Atkinson Memorial Award for his contributions to library automation.

While the University has one of the largest library systems in the country, most students do not roam the library to sift through books and articles, but instead use the databases to search for resources.

The movement of library automation is the reason why there are systems in place to digitize the search for resources.

The award serves to honor Hugh C. Atkinson, a former University librarian. Wilkin said in an email Hugh Atkinson passed away in 1986, but he had a profound impact on research libraries and library technology.

Wilkin said Atkinson added many significant things while at the University, such as the reorganization of the library’s administration based on his own views and ideas of the profession and computerized a statewide library network.

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    Chase Ollis, the program officer for professional development at the American Library Association, said in an email the award was established at the 1988 American Library Association’s midwinter meeting.

    This award is presented to individuals who have made substantial contributions to library automation and management, according to the ALA website.

    Wilkin’s contribution to library automation is most notably the HathiTrust, which is a model for shared governance and large-scale collaboration that secured sharing provisions for member libraries, according to the website. Wilkin served as the executive director of HathiTrust.

    “John was really instrumental in getting the HathiTrust off the ground and bringing it to the point where it is today, a vibrant depository that allows students and scholars not just to access the materials that are in the public domain in digital form,” said Paula Kaufman, former dean of libraries at the University.

    Kaufman worked closely with Wilkin in the early days of the HathiTrust.

    “The HathiTrust effort mirrors so much of what Atkinson was trying to do and does it in a way that relates to digitized content,” Wilkins said. “My hope and vision was the same as Atkinson’s.”

    One of the challenges of library automation, Kaufman said, is that technology is constantly changing. It is the current generation of library manager’s tasks to ensure that the library systems are evolving and updating with technology.

    “I believe that one of the next great challenges will be creating shared repository infrastructure for institutional publications, data and other types of digital content,” Wilkin said.

    This innovation may be coming sooner rather than later, as Wilkin said that the University is currently investing in a system that may make this possible.

    “I’m honored, and I’m grateful to my colleagues in the profession who thought I was worthy,” Wilkin said.

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