Tribute to The Librarian's Librarian: Linda Watkins

July 15, 2014

"She is a shining example of dedication, determination and caring. Always ready to help, always willing to spend the extra time, always sharing her library expertise, Linda combines the curiosity and caring of a truly dynamic and dedicated librarian."

Linda Watkins was one of Dean Emeritus and Professor James Matarazzo's best hires. When he hired Watkins as GSLIS' "librarian's librarian" at Simmons Beatley Library, he says he "knew she was the one for GSLIS." For more than 33 years, Watkins has taken her role as librarian's librarian seriously. She's mentored thousands of GSLIS students and alumni, partnered with faculty to enhance classroom instruction, and developed a strong understanding of the LIS profession, its history, and literature. In addition, she proudly served as steward of the LIS professional collection, which is one of the oldest and best in the United States. She is retiring on August 29, 2014 and leaving behind a legacy of librarianship and leadership.

Watkins' library career began in 1972 when she participated in "Library Volunteers for Boston," which established libraries in Boston Public Schools. She established and managed elementary school libraries at the Charles Perkins School in the South End and the Martin Milmore School in the Fenway. She also earned a master's in education degree at Boston University and certification as a Unified Media Specialist and Elementary and Secondary School Teacher. In 1978, she was hired as a Library Media Specialist at North Quincy High School.

She completed the master's program in library and information science at Simmons GSLIS in 1984 and was inducted into the Beta Phi Mu international library and information studies honor society.

"Linda has been a wonderful and knowledgeable colleague and friend," says Em Claire Knowles, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs. "I knew she was special because she was honored as a Kenneth Shaffer outstanding student. Most recently, she was elected into the Massachusetts Library Association's Hall of Fame which acknowledges all of her years as a keen librarian. Although she leaves Simmons, I hope our friendship will endure."

Watkins' supervisors share the contributions and impact she has had on the college and the GSLIS community. Matarazzo says of his hire, "She surpassed every goal I had for her. In addition to effectively working with faculty and meeting the needs of a diverse student body, Linda was wildly successful in motivating alumni to contribute to the library resources endowment fund. Alumni, faculty, and students appreciate Linda's contributions. There will be huge shoes to fill."

"Linda and I have many shared experiences and have been part of tremendous changes within the library profession," says Daphne Harrington, Simmons Library Director. "She has been a steward to that change, always willing to face new challenges, embrace new technologies, and implement new strategies. GSLIS students and faculty alike have consistently praised Linda for her support of their teaching, research, and learning. She is a role model and a mentor and is appreciated for her contributions to various library committees. Linda is sought after to serve on Library search committees because of her ability to ask candidates pertinent and insightful interview questions. I have greatly appreciated Linda's work with international students and her commitment to providing outstanding library service. I am sure that Linda has never given up on a library research question. Her dedication and commitment to the profession of librarianship is unparalleled and will be her lasting legacy."

"Ever since Linda Watkins arrived at Simmons GSLIS -- first as a student, then as a library intern, and most impressively as the school's librarian -- she showed us all what a true professional in the field of library and information science could and should be," says Artemis Kirk, former Director of The Simmons College Libraries from 1979 through 1995. "I had the good fortune to work with Linda for a number of years, and her care for everything and everyone at Simmons was obvious from her first day. No one better understood collections, faculty, and staff than Linda. No one worked more selflessly and tirelessly on behalf of her thousands of constituents. No one went further into depths and breadth of service beyond all expectation. And no one did all of these things without ego, but rather with pride of place -- and that place was Simmons. Her legacy to Simmons College will be one to emulate for generations to come."

"Her bibliographic sleuthing skills are sophisticated enough to meet the needs of librarians and LIS educators," says Michèle Cloonan, Dean Emerita and Professor. "Yet it misses the essence of Linda's approach to librarianship. She is in it for everyone. She has helped countless master's and doctoral students navigate complex sources. Not only does she provide invaluable resources for faculty courses, her class presentations are superb. I describe Linda as 'the compleat librarian.' My spelling is intentional: early reference books often used this spelling of the word complete because it signified comprehensiveness and authority. Linda, the compleat librarian, embraced librarianship completely. It has been a privilege to work with her."

Faculty also shared how Watkins contributed to growing the next generation of library and information science professionals. "Linda has been an anchor for GSLIS over many years," says Associate Dean and Professor Jeannette Bastian. "Her excellence as a reference librarian, her deep knowledge, and above all, her commitment to the library profession and to GSLIS has helped all of us in our teaching and in our research. I, as well as most of our faculty, have greatly benefited from her assistance both personally and in my classes. She is a shining example of dedication, determination and caring. Always ready to help, always willing to spend the extra time, always sharing her library expertise, Linda combines the curiosity and caring of a truly dynamic and dedicated librarian."

"It has been my great pleasure to know and work with Linda Watkins for the last ten years, first as a colleague in the Library, and then at GSLIS," says Donna Webber, Associate Professor of Practice. "From our first meeting, I was impressed with her total dedication to maintaining the best GSLIS library possible, and providing the highest quality service to faculty and students. This spring, Linda and I worked together on a history of GSLIS for Dean Abels' investiture. We chose our themes, found illustrations in Linda's collections and in the Archives, and designed our posters with much care. Linda brought her incomparable knowledge of the school, the faculty, and the students to our project -- perhaps the perfect final project for an outstanding career at GSLIS."

While she will leave huge shoes to fill, Simmons GSLIS acknowledges the privilege of having had such a "compleat librarian." We wish Linda all the best in her retirement.

By Dean's Editorial Fellow Jennifer Moyer