State Librarian retires
from the State Library's Weekly Information Bulletin, July 5, 1996Joseph F. Shubert, State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries in the New York State Education Department, retired at the end of June. He has been the New York State Librarian since October 1977.
The Regents Advisory Council on Libraries, on May 17, noted his "exceptional leadership" over nearly nine- teen years and asked Commissioner of Education Richard Mills and Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Education Carole Huxley to move promptly in conducting a national search for his successor. Mrs. Huxley confirmed that they will do so.
Shubert, who began his professional career as reference and documents librarian at the Nevada State Library in 1951, has also served as State Librarian of Ohio and Nevada. From 1962 to early 1966, he was Assistant Director of the ALA International Relations Office.
In announcing his retirement, Shubert spoke warmly of his association with the State Library, the library community in New York State, legislators who have "steadily advanced library service over the last two decades," and others who work to "ensure that the New York State Library is a premier library for the government, the people and the libraries of the State." He particularly credited Carole Huxley for her vigorous support of the State Library and all library services, noting her legislative advocacy and "leadership for library service to all New Yorkers."
Shubert's length of tenure is exceeded only by that of James I. Wyer, who was State Librarian from 1908 to 1938. Shubert is the 19th State Librarian since the founding of the Library in 1818.
What has happened?
Commenting on change during his tenure, Shubert said: "The early reality of the. long-predicted telecommunications revolution is the biggest change and challenge since 1977. Fred Kilgour accurately forecast in the 1960s that OCLC would change the objectives of libraries. Now, telecommunications is even more fundamental because it changes our society. Libraries and library systems must rethink and reshape in the context of new needs and conditions."
He said, "New York's library leaders in small communities, neighborhoods and the largest libraries are taking creative advantages of the technology. And they need the electronic doorway library bill to be adopted by the Legislature as the first step in State policy recognition of libraries in the Information Superhighway environment."
Shubert also commented that the future of libraries in New York State builds on enduring strengths of libraries which have been accomplished by decades of work by his predecessors and other New York library and public policy leaders. He said that accomplishments over the last 19 years in which he takes particular pride include:
- The several comprehensive library aid proposals of the Regents -- and NYLA/NYSALB leadership over the years in helping them get enacted -- for the benefit of all library users and the participation of all types of libraries. As a result, New York has the broadest library aid program in the nation and has invested millions in database development and helping libraries adopt new technologies.
- Securing State policy and funds for library service to people with visual disabilities -- achieving aid in permanent law for The New York Public Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in 1981, and for the New York State Talking Book and Braille Library in 1990.
- $32 million in State aid for award-winning public library outreach services which touch the lives of people who are homebound, unemployed, or struggling to overcome disabilities and disadvantages.
- $42 million in State aid and LSCA funds to library systems for database development and technology for resource sharing and broader access to information.
- New York's consistent record in out-distancing all other states in public library interlibrary loan. According to Federal data, only Illinois, with 1.4 million loans, approaches New York's 2.3 million loans.
- More extensive school library media center participation in resource sharing than in any other state.
- The State Library's "firsts" in using technology -- from among the first of major research libraries to use an online catalog (1981), and creating the first NYLINE in 1985, to using the Internet for interlibrary loan (1992).
- Library and citizen leadership in undertakings which moved the State's library policy and program agenda forward, such as the 1980-81 Commissioner's Committee on Statewide Library Development, the 1993 Emergency Task Force on Library Aid, the statewide technology plans, the minimum standards for public libraries, and two Governor's conferences on library and information services.
Commenting on the State Library itself, he noted the service improvements made possible by moving from the Education Building to the Cultural Education Center in 1978. "Ours is the only state library to be recognized by the Association of Research Libraries. Its services are excellent, but because of recent State retrenchment, it is open the fewest hours of any state library in the nation, and is buying less than half of what is needed to meet customer needs," he said.
As State Librarian of Ohio, Shubert was one of the three founders of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies in 1973. He was Chair of that organization, 1976-79 and has chaired the legislative, statistics and other committees. He also chaired the American Library Association (ALA) Legislation Committee, the ALA Planning Committee and served as President of the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies. He served on the ALA Council three times, first elected in 1959.
In 1983-84, at the request of Brooke E. Sheldon, he chaired the ALA President's Task Force which developed "Realities; Educational Reform in a Learning Society" -a response to "A Nation at Risk." As a result, ALA declared that (1) learning begins before schooling; (2) good schools require good school libraries; (3) people in a learning society need libraries throughout their lives; and (4) public support of libraries is an investment in people and communities.
For the Library of Congress, Shubert served on the Advisory Committee for the Center for the Book (1979- 82) and as a member of the Network Advisory Committee (1981-96). He was a trustee of the Ohio College Library Center and OCLC Inc., served on the Depository Council to the Public Printer and is a trustee of the Northeast Document Conservation Center.
President Ford appointed him to the Advisory Committee for the 1979 White House Conference on Library and Information Services and he served on a planning group for the 1991 conference.
He has received distinguished alumnus awards from the University of Denver (1979), the SUNY College at Geneseo (1985), and the Distinguished Public Service award and medal from the Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs at the University at Albany (1987). ASCLA honored him in 1985 with the Exceptional Achievement Award for "distinguished service in strengthening the role of the state library on the national level. In 1991, he was the recipient of the Ohio Library Association Hall of Fame award.
Recent honors and future plans
Last month, the Regents Advisory Council renamed its Excellence awards as the "Joseph F. Shubert Moving Toward Excellence Awards." In March 1995, the Regents, the Commissioner of Education, legislative leaders, and colleagues from across the nation honored him with citations and surprise accolades during a Regents meeting.
In a farewell talk to Research Library staff last week, Shubert commented on the opportunities and challenges that the State Library -- and all libraries -- face, and wished "just for a moment" that he were 15 years younger and beginning as New York State Librarian. He expressed confidence that the staff of the Research Library and Library Development Division will bring the New York State Library into the 21st century with speed, energy, and creativity, resulting in the best of service for the 18 million people of New York State.
Shubert said that he will continue to live in Albany and remain a user of the State Library, the Albany Public Library and library WEB pages from around the world.