Environmental Factor, August 2010, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Library Pioneer Dav Robertson Retires
By Eddy Ball
NIEHS Library and Information Services Branch Chief Dav Robertson marked a career milestone on June 29 as friends and colleagues celebrated his retirement after 33 years at the Institute. Robertson enjoyed a round of tributes from well-wishers gathered in the NIEHS Library commons, ranging from members of the NIEHS leadership and the library staff to lab-based scientists and some of the former interns whose careers he did so much to shape.
Robertson, whose final day at NIEHS was July 2, joined the library staff in 1977 at legendary Building 18 on the former North Campus, following two years of federal service with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a stint with the Peace Corps in Korea. He was named chief of the library in 1988.
During his 22 years at the helm, Robertson was the guiding force in the transformation of the NIEHS Library from a traditional repository of printed information to a state-of-the-art electronic-based special library capable of tailoring its services to the changing needs of the NIEHS scientific community. His eagerness to embrace new information services technologies led to NIEHS being one of the first Medline search centers. He has continued to keep the library at the cutting edge of science with recent initiatives to meet the needs of the growing number of large-team, bioinformatics-supported research efforts at NIEHS.
As they formed a circle for a round of tributes to Robertson, many of the guests spoke in turn about his long and successful career as head of the library. Acting Deputy Director Steve Kleeberger, Ph.D., presented Robertson with a special issue of the NIEHS Environmental Factor. The issue celebrated thirty years of the many library activities and accomplishments that had appeared in the newsletter since it was established in 1978.
While Kleeberger praised Robertson for creating a library with "all the things academic institutions would kill for" and former Acting Director Sam Wilson, M.D., honored the library chief's "thoughtful, innovative approach," tributes for Robertson also focused on his management style and winning personality.
As NIEHS Special Advisor Allen Dearry, Ph.D., said, "Dav exemplifies the kind of person we all like to have as a leader..., [one who] does a great job of crediting his staff." Bill Suk, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Center for Risk and Integrated Sciences, added, "The one person you always looked forward to seeing was Dav."
When Robertson's turn to speak came about, not surprisingly, he downplayed his many accomplishments with his characteristic modesty. "If you've got a good staff," he said, "it's easy to look good."
Guests enjoyed light refreshments and cake, as they mingled and watched a video collage of Robertson and the library.