University of Wisconsin Commencement, 2007

Dr. Charles Bunge's Introduction to:

Gail Schlachter
Recipient of the 2007 Distinguished Alumna Award
University of Wisconsin, School of Library and Information Studies
May, 2007


Good morning. I am delighted to be a part of this celebration. One of the many joys of teaching is seeing students of your program become successful contributors to their profession. Gail Schlachter graduated from our program just before I joined the faculty, so I can’t take credit for having been one of her teachers, but I do take great joy in having had her as a colleague and friend over many years.

Gail took her masters from the Library School (as it was called then) in 1967. Her only grade below A was a B+ in cataloging, perhaps forgivable for one whose career has focused on reference services and materials. While she was in her master’s program, Gail worked as a graduate assistant for Margaret Monroe, one of the most effective and influential professors in our School’s long history and one who’s ideas have had great impact on Gail’s own career. (This is somewhat ironic, since, according to Gail, Margaret wasn’t all that sure she wanted to admit Gail to the program when Gail had her admissions interview.) Gail went on for her Ph.D. in librarianship, which she took from the University of Minnesota in 1971. She holds master’s degrees in history, education, and public administration, as well. She has had an exceedingly productive career as a library school teacher, library user services librarian and administrator, scholar, and compiler and publisher of information sources.

Margaret Monroe believed and taught that one of the over-arching imperatives of library public services is to help people who need information break down and surmount the barriers that stand between them and the information they need. She also taught that there are individuals and groups of individuals who have special needs and for whom the barriers to finding and using information are especially formidable. Gail took these concepts and combined them with her entrepreneurial genius to create a publishing firm, with her garage as a warehouse and her family as staff, to publish information on financial aid for persons with special needs. Since its beginnings in the 1970s, Reference Service Press has far outgrown Gail’s garage and has become a highly successful independent publisher. Because of her many high quality directories, the dreams of higher education for countless students have been brought closer to reality. For this alone, Gail deserves the recognition we give her today.

Margaret Monroe also taught, especially by example, that a true professional serves her or his profession by contributing to professional associations and organizations. Certainly, Gail has provided the same example for you aspiring professionals assembled here today. She has served effectively and is still serving on the governing council of ALA (the American Library Association). Her contributions and leadership with which I am most familiar and most impressed, though, are those to the division of ALA that focuses on reference services, the Reference and User Services Association, known as RASD when Gail and I served together on its board. Gail has served this division as its President, as the reference materials review editor of its journal, and as editor of its journal. In all these roles, she set high standards of service and scholarship and was effective in helping others achieve those standards.

Those who wrote to the Alumni Association to urge that Gail be given the award she receives today were consistent in their praise of her spirit of generosity and willingness to recognize and encourage the accomplishments of others. I remember fondly the dinner at a 1979 ALA conference when Gail said, “We must do something important and lasting to honor Margaret Monroe for all the good she’s done for people like me and for the profession.” And, by golly, with Gail’s leadership, we did put together a book of important essays about aspects of library user services in libraries [The Service Imperative: Essays in Honor of Margaret E. Monroe] that delighted Margaret at her retirement from the faculty. (I treasure my copy of this book, signed by both Gail and Margaret.) This is but one example of Gail’s willingness to encourage and mentor others. Another might be the fact that she and her company support two monetary awards, one that recognizes the most outstanding articles published in the Reference and User Services Quarterly, and the other an annual scholarship to help library school students prepare for reference work.

Our award to Gail today is by no means the first recognition that her outstanding career has received. In 1992 she received the highest award that the field of reference services has to offer, the Isadore Gilbert Mudge Citation for distinguished contributions to reference librarianship. (In case you are wondering, Mudge was an outstanding reference librarian, who, like Gail compiled guides to information sources.) In 1997 Gail also received the Louis Shores-Oryx Press Award for excellence in the reviewing of books and other materials for libraries. (Louis Shores, was an outstanding reference teacher and reviewer of reference books.) Her own publications have also received many “outstanding” and “best” awards.

Graduates, family members, colleagues, and friends, I am delighted to present Gail Schlachter, a truly outstanding alumna of our school.

Please send your inquiries, comments, and suggestions to info@rspfunding.com
Last modified May 15, 2007.
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