Death of a friend

Dr. Ilene Rockman died yesterday–and that’s the last time I’ll use “Dr.,” because she was always Ilene to my wife and me.

You may know or know of Ilene through her many professional and editorial activities within ACRL, at the California State University System, and elsewhere. Charles W. Bailey, Jr., posted this notice earlier today; it offers a good brief summary of her career.

I might have met Ilene at some editorial board function many years ago (actually, I almost certainly did)–but we really got to know her when she married Fred Gertler. Fred is a close friend; has been for more than a quarter-century. When Fred married Ilene, she became a close friend too. Fred called this morning to let us know; we just returned from a visit.

Ilene had great intelligence, persistence, energy, and personality. I knew some of her many accomplishments. I also knew she and Fred made a great pair for the last decade–and admired her as a person as much as as a high-achieving librarian.

We always got together for a combined New Year’s/anniversary (ours) brunch, and typically a few more times each year. We’ll miss her. So will the library field (in general) and, I’m sure, thousands of individual librarians.

There’s more to say, but that’s enough for here and now.

Update, November 30: Please see the comments for this entry, including Fred Gertler’s eloquent eulogy.

10 Responses to “Death of a friend”

  1. Sue Treiman says:

    I’m not a librarian, just a relative – someone whose life was richer for having intersected with Ilene’s for a brief time. In the ten years I knew her, as Cousin Freddy’s wife, I admired her grace, her courage, her intelligence and her humor. She touched me, as I know she did everyone in our family.

    She will be missed… but she will be remembered; the ultimate evidence of a life well-lived…


  2. Fred Gertler says:

    Here is the eulogy that I wrote for Ilene. I think, hope, that it reflects both her professional and personal qualities,

    Ilene was a very interesting person, and in a very good way. She could get excited about the 1965 Giants, the quest for the perfect rugelach, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Martha and the Vandellas, Jean-Pierre Rampal, biographies of strong women, Harry Potter, the Barefoot Contessa, Divine Design, and much, much more. She would laugh with delight at the most unexpected moments, be it Nathan Lane singing “I could have danced all night” in The Birdcage, our discovery of the word Hotzeplatz in Yiddish with Dick and Jane, the phrases car parks and identity parades, or my occasional singing of the SuperChicken Song, to name just a few. She was a creative wordsmith, especially when tired. One favorite, which will always bring a smile to my face, was her transconfabulation of Kofi Annan to Afikomen. I will never again be able to hear that man’s name without thinking of the piece of the matzoh that gets hidden during the Passover Seder.

    She loved her family. Edward, Selma, Sam and Joe, I share your loss and offer my condolences. And to her slightly more extended family, Peter, Carol, Adam, Danielle, Uncle Vic, Aunt Bea, Cousins Terry and Roy, and so many more, my thoughts are with you at this difficult time.

    She loved the family she inherited when she married me – Mom, Dad, Jan, Bob, Robby and Jess – and they loved her in return. She was and always will be one of us!

    She loved being a librarian. She was passionate about making a difference in the lives of people she knew and worked with directly, and those she never met, but who were influenced by her passion and dedication to the profession. Many librarians speak of developing programs, establishing partnerships, offering library services outside the physical building, making each encounter with a library user a teachable moment, but she actually did it; and then she wrote about and spoke about and shared it her colleagues, because knowledge shared is knowledge enriched.

    She lived her passion. When she was first diagnosed and in the hospital, she quizzed nurses and interns, fellows, and doctors on their sources and their research – she came to her visits at Stanford with as much relevant information as she could find, and used that information to ask probing questions to help her understand her disease and be a better advocate for herself. While she was fighting the cancer, she found the strength, will, and determination to be the lead author on a book, attend meetings, give presentations, and be an advocate whenever and wherever she could. And she was honored by her professional colleagues, first with an award as the Education and Behavioral Sciences Librarian of the Year, and then as the recipient of the Miriam Dudley Award for Instruction.

    Beyond this, Ilene was an active and eager participant in the local library world in Hayward. She served on the advisory boards of the Friends of the Hayward Public Library, the Literacy Council of the Hayward Public Library, and the Bay Area Libraries and Information Systems (BALIS). In 2004, California State Senator Liz Figueroa named her “Hayward Woman of the Year”.

    And she loved me. She always claimed she knew we met right from the moment we met. I thought I had just bought an attractive young woman a glass of wine – who knew? Well, she did. From that beginning, she was ahead of me, waiting for me to catch up, confident that I would. During the too short time we were together, we enriched our lives in ways we could never have imagined. I am certainly a better and more complete person for having loved and been loved by Ilene.

    Now Ilene has gone ahead of me again, this time to a place I cannot follow her to right away. I can’t bear the thought of being without her. But I have learned to trust Ilene’s instincts, and when she said we would be together again, and that she would be waiting for me, I believed her, and in that I find some small measure of comfort.

  3. Terri Treiman says:

    I am very moved by the comments that my cousin Fred was able to share. It would be hard to add anything to such an eloquent statement so I will keep it simple. I knew Ilene as my cousins wife — so I was not adjacent to all her accomplishments as a librarian. I just know she was profoundly human and that she and Fred found something together that any of us are lucky to find…even though it was everyone’s wish that the ride would go on longer.
    Having had the chance to know her and to witness the love between Fred and Ilene was a privelege to all who were in a position to do so and we are thankful for that and for her life…Terri

  4. Bonnie Gratch Lindauer says:

    Like so many of her colleagues, Ilene inspired and encouraged me. I have known her professionally for about 20 years, and no matter how long between conferences it had been since we last met, we always found a little time to share information about our work. She was a writer, speaker and editor par excellence, and more than that she was an advocate for information literacy, libraries and learning. The memory I will carry with me (and use, should I ever need to) is how she used her time right up to the end — commited to her work, relationships and what she believed in.

  5. Cheryl Stewart says:

    Ilene Rockman had a profound effect on me in my professional life. I was a new librarian when I first had the opportunity to hear her speak in public. Her energy, passion, intelligence, commitment and good humor effected me deeply and inspired me. Although I never knew her personally, I know that she was a wonderful person who changed the world for the better and she helped me to be a better librarian.

  6. linda dobb says:

    Ilene really believed there was excellence to be found and practiced in library work. She never ceased to encourage others to follow her lead–publish, speak, travel–be a good representative of the profession. It almost seems quaint today. She was really determined that there be a future for librarians in a world where people are quick to dismiss us with a nod toward google. I loved her for her toughness, her rigor, her ramrod strength that made everyone around her better. CARL, LOEX, RSR, Cal Poly, CSU Hayward, the Calstate Literacy effort, ETS, and an entire generation of colleagues…each owes something to Ilene. She would have wanted all of us to continue to believe in what we do and to do it well. Here’s to Ilene, a great friend, a great librarian!

  7. Irene Hoffman says:

    I knew Ilene by reputation while working at OCLC Pacific. She was one of our most frequent callers — always pushing us to think about how we could provide more and/or better services to libraries. Her ability to analyze problems and think of solutions is unmatched by anyone I had ever met before.

    Years later, I had the amazing good fortune to actually work with Ilene at Cal Poly. We had fun challenging library staff to keep our names straight. Our offices were back-to-back in the admin suite, and we were the only 2 Jewish girls in the place. All that coupled with our names — Ilene Rockman and Irene Hoffman — we had everyone confused!!

    At Cal Poly, I learned very quickly that the creativity, energy and vision for services lived with two remarkable individuals — Ilene and Paul Adalian. They were the incredible duo that kept pushing the envelop for services, entrepreneurial applications, and contributions to the CSU and beyond. Through their innovations we are the happy recipients of such things as “the Golden Retriever”, the Lone Arranger”, and of course, Information Competency. It was Ilene & Paul who spearheaded the entire CSU information competency program (I believe with CSU Northridge) to create the Informaiton Competency Tutorials.

    On a personal front, Ilene was kind, thoughtful, generous and caring. She tried to make life good for everyone around her. I was proud to be asked to be her maid of honor when she & Fred got married. It was the most beautiful partnership I had ever seen. She was the Lou Costello to Fred’s Buddy Abbott. She would blush at the silliness, and sparkle with amusement. Fred helped her relax and put work into a more balanced perspective; and she gave all of us, a higher sense of honor and passion for the work that we are all engaged in within our libraries.

    I miss knowing that Ilene is there. That I can’t see her anymore at ALA, that I won’t be able to read her newest ideas and thoughts.
    I will miss her — but I will always keep her close in my heart. And I will always try to remember her passion in all that I do.

    The tribute to Ilene is that she touched and influenced so many of us AND so many of us yet to come.

  8. Jan Idelman says:

    Riffing off of a remembrance of Ilene I read on another website, I want to add that Ilene Rockman not only rocked…she rolled. I cannot begin to imagine the courage and strength she obviously had and drew upon every moment of these last few years. The fact that she and Fred were so able to dedicate their energies to keeping things going, rather than putting their resources into wondering “why me” is in itself a tribute to the kind of love and bravery that leaves us in awe.

    Fred, I am so happy that you had the good fortune to share your lives. To me, Ilene was not only a cousin by marriage, but someone I would have wanted to befriend had I met her under different circumstances, which is why it is no surprise to read so many tributes from her colleagues. Ilene and Fred are symbols of grace under fire, acceptance of circumstances and the fire to fight to go on. Ilene’s memory will burn forever in our hearts.

  9. Lisa Hinchliffe says:

    “Gathering in Remembrance of Dr. Ilene Rockman”
    Sunday, January 22, 2006
    5:00 – 6:30 p.m.
    San Antonio Convention Center, Room 217A

    Many of us have had the privilege of working with Ilene over
    the years. Others have been inspired by her example, her
    passion and her extraordinary contributions to the profession.
    Please join Ilene’s friends and colleagues at ALA Midwinter as
    we gather to remember Ilene.

    Ilene’s obituary, including her donation wishes can be found at

  10. When I first met Ilene, I was her teacher in library school. Over the years, she became first a colleague, then an inspiration, and always a friend. It hurts to think that she is gone in body, but she will live on in spirit, in so many hearts.