John E. Smith: Irvine
It was with deep sadness that the UCI Library staff and faculty learned of the death of founding University Librarian, John E. Smith, on July 28, 1986. After coming to UCI in 1963, two years before the campus officially opened, John directed the development of the library until his retirement in January 1979. He was subsequently honored with the designation of University Librarian, Emeritus.
John dearly loved librarianship which he pursued with dedication for 39 years. His Certificate of Librarianship from UC Berkeley (1940) was to take him through a rich and varied career. His initial position as a junior professional librarian for the Library Association of Portland was followed by an appointment as junior professional in the United States Department of Agriculture Library (1941-42). From agriculture, he moved into the field of business and labor serving as the first librarian of the newly formed Institute of Industrial Relations at UCLA. He left UCLA for a period in the U.S. Army Medical Department then returned in 1949 to head the acquisitions department until January, 1952. Moving away from the academic world, John spent a notable decade in the position of chief librarian for the City and County of Santa Barbara (1952-1961), followed by two years on the other side of the globe as the advisor for library resources and training for the USC Department of Public Administration's Pakistan Project.
In August, 1963, John accepted Chancellor Daniel G. Aldrich Jr.'s invitation to become university librarian at UCI. During his tenure here, John was instrumental in building our collections. Based on the original 75,000 volumes gathered at UC San Diego for each of the newly planned campuses (Irvine, San Diego, and Santa Cruz), the collection grew to more than 800,000 volumes and 12,400 journals at the time of his retirement.
The significance of John's contributions to the library extended far beyond the development of a fine collection. His management style reflected his personal concern for individuals and, within broad guidelines, he allowed library managers to function with a degree of freedom rarely found elsewhere.
― 290 ―One of his staff members remembers John as a person who knew each staff member by first name and treated each equally. She admired and respected these qualities in addition to John's special sense of humor. Another staff member summarizes her memories of him as “warm, witty, and well-met.” This personal and professional concern for library employees was also demonstrated by the fact that John encouraged and supported the establishment of a Library Staff Association, the Library Support Staff Association, and the Irvine Division of the Librarians' Association of the University of California.
John was equally admired by the faculty. He was always willing and eager to provide resources for the purchase of special collections and interacted with the faculty on a collegial basis. He regularly attended Senate mettings and played a very active role on the Senate Library Committee.
John's accomplishments were not limited to his places of employment. During his long career, he was an active member of both the California Library Association (CLA) and the American Library Association (ALA) and he held numerous offices in both organizations. Intellectual freedom was John's passionate concern in professional as well as personal circles. He was a member of CLA's Intellectual Freedom Committee and served as its chair in 1950-1951. His commitment to intellectual freedom stretched beyond active participation in the movements in CLA and ALA. Although he was a librarian, John was a leader in UCLA's Faculty Committee for Responsible University Government, an organization formed to support those who steadfastly opposed the infamous Loyalty Oath imposed upon UC faculty during the McCarthy era.
John knew early on that the development and growth of the UCI Library collection would need support and help. One of his earliest objectives was to see to the formation of a Friends of the Library organization. This must have been done with style, for within the first week after a public announcement, some 10,000 members of the community joined the new Friends organization. It was by far the largest library support group ever known! Now that the seriousness of the Friends' objectives are known, however, its mailing list numbers about 3,200 names. John's great admiration and respect for the Friends of the Library, and for the support which it provided during his tenure, continued to be evident in his work for and participation in the Friends group long after his retirement. John's intellectual curiosity and interest in human knowledge and thought knew no bounds, evidenced by one of his final wishes that those wishing to do so make contributions to the Friends of the UCI Library for the purchase of books (not computers!) with no subject limitations.
John's friends and colleagues will long remember him as one of that generation of librarians who fiercely defended the rights of individuals to think for themselves and to have access to the treasure troves that record
― 291 ―the best of human endeavor and thought. He has left his personal and professional imprints on many of us, not only at UCI but throughout the country and other parts of the world. John is survived by his constant and faithful companion, Lucille, mainstay and pillar of support for some 40 years, and his loving children, Michael, Diana, and Douglas.
Calvin Boyer Seymour Menton Henry Cord Meyer