My very good friend, mentor and colleague Pamela Bluh retired in August from her position as Associate Director for Technical Services and Administration at the Thurgood Marshall Law Library, the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. True to form, Pam did not want to be the focus of any sort of event or activity to honor her retirement, preferring to move on without fanfare. As her former employee I am going to have to ignore her request (to which Pam will attest is not the first time) as I do not believe that someone who has given so much to our profession should retire without some small recognition of her contributions.
Pam, after a brief stint at the Johns Hopkins University Library, came to Maryland in 1980 when much of the technology we take for granted today was still very much in its infancy. However, “new tech” never could slow her down and she quickly became adept with the new technological tools and used them to improve and expand library services at the law school. Her skills and her commitment to adopting new technology to improve services led, in the course of her time at Maryland, to her taking a critical role in not one, not two, but three (with a fourth underway at the time of her retirement) ILS implementations for the law school and for the University System of Maryland. As a result, Pam became the “go to” librarian for training other librarians in the best practices for acquisitions, serials control and database maintenance throughout the State of Maryland and in the process trained several generations of librarians and para-professionals.
Pam’s ability to see the long-term implications of a fledgling technology led her to embrace the idea of an institutional repository (IR) well before that notion was on the radar for much of the library community and allowed her to help shape the way IRs are deployed in the academic law library community. Although retired, Pam continues to be consulted by her peers in the development of this service across library types.
In fact, her knowledge and her graciousness in sharing her experience was a key factor in the decision to award her the Bowker/Ulrich’s Serials Librarianship Award in 2004. Always committed to the profession Pam has held numerous positions in ALA and in ALCTS. She served as the ALCTS Division President for the 2007-2008 term and as Editor of the ALCTS Papers on Library Technical Services and Collections from 2003 to 2006. In 2012 Pam was recognized by her colleagues with the Ross Atkinson Lifetime Achievement Award.
While Pam’s contributions to the library profession are truly more than can be listed here what I will always remember and value is her willingness to share her many friends and library contacts; her desire to build connections between colleagues that create new opportunities for growth. I recall shortly after I came to work at Maryland when Pam and I were both going to an ALA Annual and she asked that I go through the exhibits with her so she could introduce me to some of our vendor contacts. We only made it to a few of our vendors that day as it seemed we could hardly walk a few feet before someone wanted to say hello to Pam, to ask Pam’s opinion on an idea or a project or to share pictures of family or mutual friends! Pam was gracious to each person, remembering details of the questioner’s family, offering a kind word of support or, as needed, a gentle prod in a direction that helped to shape the questioner’s project. As I said, we did not see much of the exhibits that day but I certainly learned a great deal about how a professional behaves at conferences. Since then I have tried to emulate Pam’s example of kindness and commitment to our community in my own professional interactions.
While Pam and I will remain friends I am still saddened by her retirement, sad not because she has retired as I know she has plenty of activities planned but rather because so many new librarians will never have the chance that I have had to learn from such a wonderful teacher and inspirational colleague.
By William Sleeman