David Gregory

I don’t think anyone in the Preservation Department, or the Library, for that matter, was ready to say farewell to David Gregory, Associate Dean for Research & Access, on January 11, 2013. We all knew it was coming for quite some time, but we were in denial.  In 22 years, David helped shape this library. Within his role as AD for R&A, he oversaw Preservation & Digital Initiatives, Special Collections, Stacks & Media, Circulation, the e-Library (library website), and the Digital Repository, but maybe more importantly he managed a group of very strong-willed department heads and was able to keep the peace–most of the time.

Side note:  R&A was created in 2003 after a reorganization that pulled Preservation out of Technical Services and united it with these other departments that we work very closely with on a daily basis.  When I interviewed here I thought this was pretty forward-thinking, especially since I believed that preservation had outgrown its Technical Services birthplace long ago.  We will be looking at reorganizing the Library again, and I wonder what affinities we should look at and where Preservation will land.  Please leave comments for us if you have any thoughts on this.

Beyond R&A, David provided his leadership to the LibQUAL+ Survey, the Distributed Print Repository Working Group, the Library’s pandemic planning, and much, much more. He has an uncanny ability to identify all of the stakeholders and keep them informed at just the right levels. (It’s only week two and I already feel like I am wandering through the woods blindfolded.)

What I found most impressive was not that he juggled all of this, but the fact that he learned about all of these things in detail. David was not a supervisor from afar who just wanted an executive summary, nor was he a micro-manager; he wanted to understand the reasoning and philosophy behind departmental decisions. It turned out to be my pleasure to be the first Preservation Librarian he had to deal with. Training one’s supervisor is never an easy task, and it’s always frustrating when all they feel they need to take away is: “because it’s acidic” as the only issue we face. On several occasions I caught David explaining something from the preservation perspective, and sometimes to me when he was making sure he presented our concerns or decision correctly.  He was always spot-on, and it amused me how humble he was about it. I knew he really understood when he did not think I was overreacting when I told him that the solar trash compactor outside of the library looked like a book drop and it needed to be moved. He even familiarized himself with digital preservation concepts and the problems digital objects pose from a preservation standpoint. He learned about archival masters, file format pros and cons, multiple copies, dark storage, migration, obsolescence, checksums, metadata, and authentication (he liked to refer to the “chain of custody,” something he picked up from our Digital Repository Coordinator).

In the last couple of weeks before his retirement, we had a burst pipe in Special Collections. After checking the building, talking with the Head of Stacks Management, folks from Facilities Planning & Management and Service Master, and updating the Dean, David was in the Conservation Lab helping separate frozen documents so they could be spread out to air dry. He even had treatment advice for us: “breathe on them a little and they come apart.” This was not the only water disaster he helped us salvage. He was always willing to roll up his sleeves and help out.

David and his wife, Mary, at his retirement party.

David and his wife, Mary, at his retirement party.

We will all miss our editor (he’s a great writer/editor; I may never write anything coherent again), leader, mentor, therapist, friend, and the PVA that held this library together. He has earned his preservation merit badge and retirement, and we wish him bon voyage on his travels around the world with his wife, Mary.

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