The Columns

Barbara Brown, University Librarian and Professor Emerita at Washington and Lee, Dies at 69

— by on August 27th, 2011

Barbara Jeanne Brown, University librarian at Washington and Lee University from 1985 to 2003, died on Aug. 27, 2011, in Lexington, Va. She was 69.

Brown was named University librarian in 1985 and served in that position until retiring in 2003. She had previously spent five years, from 1971 to 1976, as head of reference and public services at W&L, and was one of the first women to hold a senior administrative post on campus.

“The University is fortunate to have had Barbara at the helm of the library during a critical period in that field,” said W&L President Kenneth P. Ruscio. “She combined her expertise with a sparkling wit and a warm, cheerful personality, and we will miss her.”

Brown was born on Oct. 9, 1941, in Charles City, Iowa. She earned a B.S. in English from Iowa State University in 1963, and an M.S. in library science in 1964 from Columbia University.

She began her career as a librarian in 1964 at Cornell University, working in the John M. Olin Library and the Uris Undergraduate Library. Between her two tenures at W&L, she served as assistant university librarian for general reader services at the Princeton University Library and as associate director of program coordination at the Research Libraries Group Inc., at Stanford University. In 1974, she spent one year with the Council on Library Resources Management Intern Program, a professional honor that went to only five mid-career librarians in a given year.

As the University librarian at Washington and Lee, Brown oversaw the introduction of automation, most notably through the online catalog known as Annie (named after Annie Jo White, W&L librarian, 1895-1922), and through other electronic resources. She also doubled the library’s holdings and established the Telford Science Library.

Brown served on numerous university committees, including the President’s Advisory Committee, the Student Faculty Hearing Board and nearly 30 others, including search committees for key positions. She was a member of the committee that planned Washington and Lee’s 250th anniversary celebration and presided over the ceremony during which the University Library was renamed in honor of former W&L dean James G. Leyburn.

For her contributions to academic life on campus, in 1976 Brown received the prestigious Ring-tum Phi Award from the student newspaper of the same name. She was also a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society founded at W&L in 1914.

Among Brown’s many professional affiliations, for which she also provided leadership in various capacities, were the Southeastern Library Network (SOLINET), the Virginia Library Association, the Virginia State Council of Higher Education, the Virginia Independent Colleges & Universities Library Association, the American Library Association and the Associated Colleges of the South.

As a resident of Lexington and Rockbridge County, Brown volunteered with the United Way, the American Cancer Society, the Rockbridge Historical Society, Kendal at Lexington and the English-Speaking Union. A member of the Lexington Presbyterian Church, she sang in the choir there and with the Rockbridge Choral Society, of which she was a founding member.

She is survived by many dear friends and by a number of cousins.

The memorial service will be on Tuesday, Sept. 27, at 2 p.m. at the Lexington Presbyterian Church, 120 S. Main St. It will be followed by a reception in Evans Hall on the W&L campus.

In lieu of flowers, Brown requested that those who want to make donations direct them to these organizations: Lexington Presbyterian Church (120 S. Main St., Lexington, VA 24450); Kendal at Lexington (160 Kendal Dr., Lexington, VA 24450); Friends of the Rockbridge Choral Society (P.O. Box 965, Lexington, VA 24450); the Rockbridge SPCA (P.O. Box 528, Lexington, VA 24450); and the First Presbyterian Church of Carroll (P.O. Box 681, Carroll, IA 51401).