Frederick G. Kilgour, RIP

Dr. Kilgour, founder of OCLC (among other things), died yesterday. The obituary is here (that page also has a link to a forum where people can leave their own observations).

I was barely acquainted with Dr. Kilgour (and certainly never knew him nearly well enough to dream of calling him “Fred”). I’m part of the second generation of library automation; Dr. Kilgour was part of the first generation. (I was also nowhere near at the level of importance where I’d be rubbing elbows with Dr. Kilgour under normal circumstances!)

The only significant in-person memory I have is of the LITA President’s Program at the 1993 ALA Annual Conference. I’m sure it was 1993, because I was LITA President at the time, and the program celebrated LITA’s 25th anniversary by having three former LITA presidents speak–well, actually, they were all ISAD presidents (Information Science and Automation Division), because the name change to LITA didn’t happen that far back.

The speakers:

  • Steve Salmon, the very first president, 1966-67. [Sticklers will note that this means the 25th Anniversary program was a year late. Sticklers will be correct. These things happen.]
  • Barbara E. Markuson, 1979-1980.
  • Frederick Kilgour, 1973-1975, the only LITA / ISAD president ever to serve a two-year term (as I remember, this was because the person who would have been president when Dr. Kilgour was Vice President / President-elect became the division’s Executive Director instead).

In a poignant note, the VP when Kilgour was president, and president in 1975-76, was Henriette Avram, whose death shortly before this year’s ALA Annual Conference sparked tributes at the LITA 40th Anniversary Past President’s Breakfast.

I certainly met Dr. Kilgour at that point; I’m not sure whether I’d ever met him before. Meeting him was a pleasure and an honor.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember much about the speech. Due to medical and scheduling issues, the agreement was that speakers would only come up to the podium as they were speaking–but I was sitting on the podium, the lone occupant at a table, paying attention throughout the three speeches. And, of course, not taking notes. I do remember that Dr. Kilgour was warmly received (as were all three speakers).

The field will miss him.

2 Responses to “Frederick G. Kilgour, RIP”

  1. Dave Tyckoson says:

    This has indeed been a time of loss. We are literally seeing the passing of a generation of leaders in library techical services. In the past three years, we have lost:

    April 5, 2003. Seymour Lubetzky, author of the Cataloging Rules, Paris Principles, and original AACR. He literally wrote the rules that define the modern catalog.

    April 22, 2006. Henriette Avram, who created the MARC record as a means of transmitting catalog records electronically. Her work created the foundation on which many of our library systems are still based.

    July 31, 2006. Fred Kilgour, who used those MARC records to build the first cooperative shared cataloging database. This innovative idea has since spread to become the world’s largest union catalog. It is used not only to share cataloging records, but through the ILL subsystem, to share the resources themselves.

    Leslie Burger, President of ALA, is starting a new program called “Emerging Leaders.” I am certain that the next generation of Lubetzkys, Avrams, and Kilgours is out there working on innovations that will advance our field even further. Some of you reading Walt’s blog will no doubt step in to take their place. If you are interested, take a look at:

  2. Amazing Database Locates Books, CDs, Videos in Nearest Library! Will You Buy or Will You Borrow? Pioneering Librarian, Frederick G Kilgour, Dead at 92