Joe Rosenthal R.I.P.

The death of one of the significant library leaders of the last generation was announced last week. Joe Rosenthal,who I knew during his 1979-1991 tenure as the University Librarian at Berkeley, died in early April. We interacted a lot because he was instrumental in the establishment and then early operational days of the The Research Libraries Group. My colleague, Karen Smith-Yoshimura looked up Joe’s WorldCat Identities page, and among his “most widely held works” is this one:

The Research Libraries Group; proposals for cooperation among the libraries of Columbia, Harvard, and Yale Universities and the New York Public Library by Joseph A Rosenthal ( Book )
1 edition published in 1973 in English and held by 70 libraries worldwide

For a long time I had a dog-eared copy of that spiral-bound piece of work that Joe did while the Associate Librarian at Berkeley. It seems not to have survived the many intervening moves. I am pleased to see that a copy is noted in the Guide to the Research Libraries Group Records courtesy of the Stanford University Libraries Department of Special Collections and University Archives.

In any event, I remember doing a lot of work with Joe in the early days of RLG. He was smart, sardonic, and always a bit prickly. Given his origins in cataloging he had deep and strongly-held opinions about what should be done and built that were shaped by his elite library career. He stuck with it and helped build the organization. At the end of the day he was the one who’d invite me for a drink. I’ll toast him this evening. Jim

More from the ARL news:

Joseph A. Rosenthal, 1929–2012

Joe Rosenthal passed away on April 7 in San Francisco. He had retired as University Librarian at the University of California, Berkeley in 1991, after serving 12 years in that role and 8 years as Associate University Librarian. As University Librarian, he initiated major programs in conservation, automation, and private funding that guided the library through the changes of the 1980s and have had a lasting impact on the university. Prior to coming to Berkeley, he held increasingly responsible positions at the New York Public Library (1958–70) and he began his library career as an intern at the Library of Congress (1957–58).

Throughout his career Rosenthal published articles, participated actively in professional associations, served as a consultant, and was principal investigator on numerous federal grants. He served on the ARL Board of Directors from 1984 to 1987. He also served on several ARL committees, including the Task Force on Bibliographic Control (1980–1987), which he chaired 1984–1987; the ARL/CRL Joint Committee on Expanded Access to Journal Collections (1983); the Coordinating Committee on Collections and Access (ex officio 1984–1987); the Committee on Government Policies (1987–1989); the Committee on Nominations (1988); and the Committee on Preservation of Research Library Materials (1990–1992).

Following his retirement from UC Berkeley, Rosenthal served on the San Francisco Library Commission and volunteered as chief librarian at the American Conservatory Theatre.

A memorial service for Joe Rosenthal will be held on Friday, June 1, at 4:00 p.m. in the Morrison Library of the Doe Library at the University of California, Berkeley. For more details, see the obituary from the San Francisco Chronicle.