Presentation of the 2015 Anne Galler Award to Lonnie Weatherby

2015 Anne Galler Award for Outstanding Library Service

Remarks by Valerie Mayman

Well Lonnie,

I am very honoured that the QLA has asked me, along with Phyllis to say a few words about you this evening.

You and I both began our careers as reference librarians at McGill, one year apart, in 1975 and 1976 respectively.  2015 is your 40ieth anniversary, and my 40ieth will be next year.  Of course we were both 16 years old when we started, hired by that “famous, mother-of-us all”, the incomparable Head of Reference at the time, Elizabeth Silvester,  who inculcated a remarkable esprit-de-corps among the “reffies,” as we called ourselves,  that has endured long after her retirement, and that of former colleagues,  some of whom  are here this evening and many who have sent congratulatory wishes.   

To be a librarian in the McLennan Reference Dept. was, back in the day, an intellectual status symbol.  McLennan Reference, as it was known, prided itself on being the reference library of first and last resort for scholars, with a strong tradition of excellence and expertise.   With its 40,000 volume reference collection, card catalogues that could fill a parking lot, followed by that technological innovation God help us, the microfiche catalogue,  and finally an online catalogue and electronic databases,  it was THE “go to” reference room in Canada to carry out serious research, along with that other institution down the 401. But in keeping with Toronto-Montreal rivalries, we were of course the “friendlier” Reference Dept.

The authoritative expertise of our librarians was sought not only by the McGill community,  but also by a wide array of scholars, individuals and organizations beyond the campus.  Long before , “ask google, ” it was “ask McLennan Reference”.

You and I, as the more junior members of the Department,  not only shared the Friday night graveyard shifts at the reference desk until 10pm, we also  had twin functional responsibilities and twin job titles of liaising with the acquisitions and cataloguing departments to make sure the needs of our department received the attention commensurate with its strong identity and mission, and sometimes too, its sense of self-importance.

You went on to develop a life and career-long encyclopedic knowledge and expertise in a broad and diverse range of subject areas -  reference materials for all disciplines in the social sciences and humanities,  specializations in English and World Literatures, Canadian Studies, Italian Studies, Political Science, Philosophy and more. You were instrumental in building a very fine film collection. You spotted and pursued the hint of trends long before they became mainstream.

You taught generations of McGill students and were looked up to and sought out by both students and faculty,  always demonstrating exceptional dedication and service,  delivered with your wonderful sense of humour, one-liners, and jokes.  

You were and are very generous with your time and knowledge towards colleagues and staff. Our department was a training ground for new and future professionals, many of whom went on to accomplished and celebrated careers elsewhere. You were a librarians’ librarian.  When it seemed impossible to find the answer to research questions,  both veterans and neophyte librarians would throw up their hands and seek your assistance. Undaunted by the arcane, obscure or esoteric, you almost always found the source, the answer, or the solution to a researcher’s need.

With your warmth, sympathy, empathy and kindness that have cheered our spirits over these many years, you have made it a joy to come to work.  

Some comments from a long ago colleague, Joni Waiser, whose career took her to  the National Library and Archives Canada who recently wrote: “nicest/funniest/smartest/most humble/gracious/dedicated/helpful/caring individual & I LOVED working with him…”

From Perth Australia, Megan Fitzgibbons sent the following message this morning:

"I'm so privileged to have been able to know Lonnie and benefitted enormously from his generous mentorship. I have many fond memories of him tap dancing out of his office (that is, "orifice") to patiently help struggling undergraduate students at the reference desk, not just giving them research help but more importantly, brightening their day. So inspirational for a brand new librarian to observe."  

And David McKnight, , Director of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries sent this reminiscence…

When I think of you Lonnie, and I often do, I remember the Golden Age of the McLennan Reference Department.  You are what made it shimmer.  It was the end one age “print”  and the beginning of the new: “electronic” Some of the Librarians who were part of that magnificent era are present this evening:  excellent friends and colleagues. I regret I cannot be present on this grand and worthy occasion .  But Lonnie you are the best.  What  I remember is learning from you. First your enormous elephant memory for authors, titles, films, music and bibliographies, guides, sources, intuition, libraries,  etc.  Spending hours in your office puzzling through questions, sometimes standing in line to pose a question or seek advice, or crack a joke. Your dedication to the patrons. Without you we would know less today about Sherbrooke Street than we know now.  Or your editorial work on Dr. William Feindel’s various publishing projects. And your heroic Dr. Martin Entin years? You were for a time – Mr. Fontanus: From McGill Libraries always at McGill libraries, it seemed.  There was always joking, punning, laughter. I remember when worked on several issues of  “FONT –ANUS”  the annual together.   A time for me - for more jitters than laughter, the preparation, the panic and in the midst of it you meticulously copy edited the texts -  and the joy when you made it a great issue. Perhaps it was at this time we started to go for our Friday Chinese buffet lunches the Ka Lo Hin.  There I discovered the private Lonnie.    We talked about work , What are you listening to or reading? I’d ask him.  Some talk about our families. I admired his parental skills.   But no gripe or gossip was he. What about Canadian Poetry,  or Jazz, or what’s new in Rare Books?  I learned that he went to the gym regularly.  As I waited for the 24 bus north-east corner of Sherbrooke and Peel, I would look up to see if I could observe him pumping out the stress. No wonder he was always  “in the moment” , calm, always ready listen or talk to.  Or talk of his Mexican vacations, I hate the tropics, yet I loved to quiz him about his Spring vacations.   I imagined him and his wife Karen dancing a Tango and envisioning Lonnie, light-footed, in the air, turning on the dance floor.  I can’t remember having an alcoholic beverage with Lonnie. Certainly not-  at or -  after lunch. Coffee, yes!  At the Second Cup Cafe, on McGill College, we talked we talked about our projects my exhibitions or his writing projects, we cooked up a pitch for short story we were going to co-write entitled the “The Heckler.” It starts like a Dadist joke: “Did you hear the one about the  poetry reading., The poet got so fed up with a heckler that …” We’ll finish this one day.   Lonnie was never to my mind a heckler, but he is the sublime poet of information sources and reference librarianship.  He is truly a Scholar Librarian who is admired and loved by many, but I can see his smile and his cool, iconic profile sitting at his desk in his office, in action  at the reference desk, I also imagine him in his cabana listening to Kind of Blue, sipping a cerveza and reading his way through a Gravity’s Rainbow yet again or a stack of Book Forums building the great Borgean library of tomorrow.  That is how I imagine him.  I remember us finishing our Friday lunches with a bowl of crème glacé before we’d walked back  to McLennan to complete yet another day,  another week at work  in the McLennan-Redpath Library, ranked as one of the best of its kind .  Without doubt,  it was/is in large part because of you.

And so Lonnie, your current and former colleagues,  and friends and your lovely family  take pleasure in celebrating you tonight, and we are all delighted and thrilled that you are receiving a most deserved recognition represented by this special award.