Presentation of the 2015 Anne Galler Award to Lonnie Weatherby

2015 Anne Galler Award for Outstanding Library Service

 
Remarks by Phyllis Rudin

Lonnie thinks that doing your job well is its own reward. You don’t have to be feted and praised by your colleagues for doing what you should be doing in the first place. He told me so the other day. But I’m afraid tonight he’ll have to submit to the praise of the colleagues who love and respect him. He was outvoted in this case. But in deference to you Lonnie, I’ll be brief.

It was always a treat for me to work at the Reference Desk with Lonnie. A student would come up and ask me some obscure question, usually about Philosophy, and I’d think to myself, I could either struggle to look up the answer to this question via the catalogue and stumble around through these concepts I can’t even pronounce, or I could ask Lonnie who’s sitting right here beside me. Which would be faster? I usually decided Lonnie, and I was never disappointed. In official time trials of Lonnie against a catalogue or a database, he’d always come out on top.

That’s because he has McGill’s catalogues stored in his head. And, on top of that, he’s aware of every uncatalogued collection hiding under the dripping pipes in the Redpath basement, piled up under the asbestos of remote storage, or stashed in some dark, lonely annex where in a whodunnit the bodies would be hidden. He’s been to every nook and cranny in the McLennan Redpath complex, and he stores that information away, so the day a student comes in, desperate to locate vol. 2, issue 3 of some journal from 1888, that isn’t in JSTOR, and every other university library in the country has discarded their hard copy, Lonnie disappears into the bowels of the building, comes out a few hours later with dust bunnies in his hair, brandishing the issue and saving the day. Lonnie does enjoy a good scavenger hunt, I would say.

But it isn’t just that he knows the collection inside out, he protects it, like a Rottweiler, standing up to trends that would decimate it for short term gain in space or money. I would say that he’s the conscience of the collection. That McGill can boast world class collections in Canadiana, English literature and film is thanks in large part to him. He’s molded and refined those collections, worried about their future as if they were his own children. He’s the type of collection expert we all aspire to be. And, always generous, he  shares his expertise with the wider North American librarian community through the reviews of non-fiction he contributes to Library Journal. In terms of giving back, he also taught for many years in the McGill Graduate School of Library Science, in the reference course.

The students are well aware of the treasure they have in Lonnie.  When they come up to the reference desk and see someone else sitting there, they look so disappointed, and often ask, “Can’t I speak to the man who helped me yesterday? The one who called me Signorina?” You have to give McGill students credit. They’ve learned to accept no substitutes.

His fellow librarians know to accept no substitutes either. He’s the go-to person. For everything. He’s always available to mentor his younger colleagues. The guest chair in his cave of an office is never empty. Which always makes me wonder how he manages to get his own work done, since he makes it a point to be there, for everyone, whenever.

Lonnie’s the kind of day-to-day colleague you love to have. He always volunteers to take the worst shifts, like Christmas Eve, so everyone else can have the time off. If you ever need someone to fill in your slot at the reference desk, for whatever reason, you don’t have to enter into lengthy negotiations about trades, like you do with some people, who will take your shift, but only in exchange for your first-born child and a player to be named later. Lonnie just does it.

I’m not at McGill anymore, but I remember being so thankful to have such a solid colleague, someone you could count on absolutely, who you could look up to and learn from, and who could always make you laugh.

The Anne Galler award recognizes an individual who has enriched librarianship in Quebec and has made a lasting contribution to the profession.They couldn’t have picked a more deserving recipient.