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Farewell, John Iliff

People are leaving their farewells for John Iliff at his memorial page. I posted something there, and another message at PUBLIB–where the body of the email announcing his death was “scrubbed” from the server, to my great irritation; I can imagine John rolling his eyes over that–and this post is somewhere between a prayer and a good-bye.

John was a really wonderful librarian. His skill lay not only in what he could do, or his knack for new technologies, or his ability to teach others; his great gift lay in his faith in the solution around the corner, in the his unwavering belief in the ability of librarians to learn new things, in his unerring hunch about the hidden value of something as dubiously valuable as email in 1991. As co-founder of PUBLIB, he probably faced any number of questions about setting up an email list for public librarians worldwide, but if he was ever annoyed by a nay-sayer or a complainer, we on the list never knew about it.

I wish John had not departed us so soon. I didn’t have enough opportunities to run into him at conferences, or exchange ideas by email, or wave to him across a crowded room. None of us got enough time with John. Maybe we never get enough time with anyone. In any event, I’m going to try a little harder to make time for the people I know and care about, even if it’s never enough, and sometimes when I see my friends I’ll think of John and his infectious smile.

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