On Tuesday, April 8, we kicked off our 40th anniversary year when over 200 people came to the Smithsonian Castle building to help us celebrate. As employee recognition awards, SIL staff had been given red T-shirts to mark the "ruby" anniversary, and most wore them to the party. When I looked out from the podium it was a sea of red, and all who came were very, very impressed! Here’s Heather Ewing, author of the new biography of James Smithson, and Shauna Collier, our Anacostia librarian, modeling the shirt.
Among the attendees were four of the Libraries’ Board members, the chairman of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, the the Acting Under Secretary for Administration, several Smithsonian museum directors, and a terrific cross-section of scientists, historians, curators, and other library users and friendsof the Libraries. Our 40th Anniversary Committee put together a trivia contest and a raffle, which made for lots of fun. Thanks to them all for doing such a terrific job!
The fortunate attendees heard excellent remarks from Ira Rubinoff, Acting Undersecretary for Science, and Acting Secretary Cristian Samper. Ira Rubinoff said "I think of all our colleagues, the librarians have had to adapt most rapidly to the electronic information age. Not only have you kept up and adopted the latest resources for our scholars, but you have been innovative, as illustrated by your leadership role in the Biodiversity Heritage Library…."
Acting Secretary Samper went further and said "I know, Ira knows, we all know how indispensable the 20 libraries are to our age-old mission, "the increase and diffusion of knowledge." They are invaluable to our Smithsonian scholars, and also the general public, offering a galaxy of resources and the help of informed staff to anyone via the Internet or in person. And they are curators of magnificent treasures that they share online and through exhibitions….By preserving priceless works by the likes of Aristotle, Euclid or Newton — some of which you can see here today — our libraries are nothing short of amazing. . . .[yet] they have their eyes on the future." He went on to give an example of that, saying "…they are helping transform the nature of biodiversity research by their leadership in developing the biodiversity Heritage Library project."
He finished by announcing that he would contribute $40,000 from the Secretary’s discretionary fund to the Libraries for the purchase of library materials, "one thousand for each year." Afterwards, we blew out the candles, cut the cake and cheered.
Many Smithsonian staff at the event made an effort to tell me how much they depend on the Libraries and how much they value the staff and what we do, even through these hard budgetary times. The support in the room for all of us was almost palpable. And when I told them some of the numbers that illustrate how much work staff did last year, there was great applause.
Thanks to Martin Kalfatovic and Gil Taylor took photos–we’ll have some official ones to share, eventually.
Nancy E. Gwinn