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Mary Jane Anderson

Mary Jane Anderson died today, after a battle with cancer. She was a public librarian and an ALA Councilor and an active Episcopalian, and many other things as well. I once shared a room with her at ALA, and it was one of the few times that I enjoyed having a roomy–in part because Mary Jane arose very early, dressed quickly, and was on the march until late in the evening. That was the unstoppable Mary Jane.

Mary Jane was also an early and enthusiastic adopter of interactive technologies. She was 2.0 before 2.0 was cool, and she grokked it on a very deep level. She was not only active on library lists, but was active in online faith communities, and mentored other believers along the way.

I can’t think of a better farewell for Mary Jane than her polite but tart reply to John Berry’s 1997 editorial in which he dismissed PUBLIB’s members as gadflies.

Mary Jane, take it away:


Sender: mary jane anderson
Subject: Re: LJ Editorial of Feb 1/reply

Dear John:

I’ve given some thought to your editorial response to what’s
happening in cyberspace these days, in the corner where those of us on
some of the library listservs perch. I have to agree with my fellow
listmates, and with the other listmembers that have replied to us, both
on the list and off. I think you have not yet grasped what is happening
to communication in libraryland.

For all the years you and I have been in the profession, the only way we
could “talk” to each other was if we worked together, if we wrote to
each other, if we went to ALA conferences. Or if we wrote an article or
a letter an editor would publish. *After* it was edited, of course.
What we knew about what was happening in other libraries, about what
others were thinking, was filtered through the library press. And there
was always a time lag. And a space crunch.

Editors of the library press were the gatekeepers of the conversation,
and of the ideas in the form of articles put before us. The editorial
was always the last word. One could respond to it (react), but even a
letter of response would be edited by the person who wrote the
editorial, and perhaps have another “last word” appended as another

The role of gatekeeper is not in jeopardy; it’s gone. Cyberspace has
blown it away. The power to edit the words and ideas that go out is
gone; cyberspace has erased it. How we learn what’s happening is
continuing to change, so rapidly that even LJ’s new site has not quite
figured out how to get ahead of the breaking news. Even HOTLINE is
cooling down. And LJ’s news columns are far behind what we know within
hours of its happening.

What we are engaging in, John, is professional conversation, news
sharing, and mutual assistance, sans editor. Each of us uses our delete
key at will. None of those of us you named feel threatened by your
taunting, bullying tone. But it seems perfectly possible that some who
don’t write often will be more hesitant now that you’ve skewered those
of us who do, in a forum where we cannot skewer back.

Have some people, us and others, responded to a series of posts with
viewpoints, repeatedly posted with humor, boredom, tiredness, questions?
Yes. Have we ignored a lot of them? Yes. Have a few suggested that
the points might be better made if made less often, and with less venom?
Yes. That’s a far cry from hauling them up, by name in an editorial as
you chose to do with us.

Now that your job responsibilities at LJ are changing, perhaps you will
have more time to join us on the web. We’d welcome your emergence from
lurker status.

Mary Jane Anderson


Goodbye, friend. I hope you are already settled into a comfy corner up there, with a single-malt and a highspeed line.

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