Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
“If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants,” Issac Newton, 1676
Throughout our lives, we have all had teachers, professors and mentors who have had a significant influence upon us, how we think, and even what we do with our lives. For me, Dr. Edward G. Holley, who recently passed away, was one such person. Dr. Holley was Dean of the School of Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel when I was a student there in the 1970’s. Although I did not take a class with him, his influence permeated the school. I would like to share with you some of the things that I learned from Dr. Holley:
- The key to successful administration: A distinguished scholar, historian and educator, Dr. Holley was also a very successful administrator. He understood the importance of leadership, and demonstrated it in all his endeavors. But he also understood that the leader is not the “whole show.” In an interview with Tommy Nixon, published in the Summer 1998 issue of North Carolina Libraries, Dr. Holley talks about the development of the graduate library school in Chapel Hill, and he says, “The key to having a first-rate program is having good people and letting them do their thing.” Following his lead, I have marveled throughout my career at the remarkable accomplishments that occur when library staff members are allowed “to do their thing.”
- The importance of library associations: Dr. Holley was the incoming president of the American Library Association when I was a student, and he made sure that all of us understood and appreciated the value of library associations. He even hired a bus and took a group of us students to the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Washington, D.C. – and I have been a active member of the American Library Association ever since. Through him I have learned that we are members of a powerful profession, and connectivity with other librarians enhances that power, both for ourselves and for the profession itself.
- The good of the order: Robert’s Rules of Order describes the part of a meeting called “the good of the order” as an open forum in which general discussion on any topic regarding the work of the organization may occur. For Ed Holley, this phrase took on a much greater meaning; it serves both as the title of a festschrift published in his honor in 1994, and, finally, his epitaph. Interim Dean Dr. Barbara B. Moran recently noted that Dr. Holley “always put the ‘good of the order’ before his individual needs.” She describes him as a “truly remarkable person” who was “always concerned with the good of others.”
I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to stand upon the shoulders of this giant in our field of library and information science.