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Library Pioneer Dav Robertson Retires

By Eddy Ball
August 2010

from left to right, Fargo, Kleeberger, Robertson, and Dearry
Dearry, right, recalled the ways Robertson empowered his staff and championed the cause of the library. Shown with Dearry, left to right, are NIEHS Library Bioinformatics Information Specialist David Fargo, Ph.D., Kleeberger, and Robertson. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

John Pritchard, Rajendra Chhabra, and Christine Flowers
NIEHS Acting Scientific Director John Pritchard, Ph.D., left, NTP General Toxicology Group Leader Rajendra Chhabra, Ph.D., center, and Christine Flowers, director of the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison, reflected the diversity of the guests at Robertson's retirement party. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

pictured from left to right, Chris Long and Robertson's wife, Eliza
Deputy Associate Director of Management Chris Long, left, talked with Robertson's wife, Eliza, who is the library director at the National Humanities Center ( Exit NIEHS. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Posing with Eliza Robertson, center, is Ruth Finch and Alisa Haggard
Eliza Robertson, center, posed with reference intern Ruth Finch, left, and Information Systems Librarian Alisa Haggard, right. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

retiree Ralph Hester, left, posed with NIEHS Biomedical Librarian Stephanie Holmgren, retiree Larry Wright, Ph.D., and Robertson.
Past, present, and future at the NIEHS Library converge as NIEHS retiree Ralph Hester, left, posed with NIEHS Biomedical Librarian Stephanie Holmgren, retiree Larry Wright, Ph.D., and Robertson. Holmgren assumed duties as acting chief on July 6. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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.

Robertson smiled as he sliced a cake
Robertson smiled as he sliced a cake featuring an image of NIEHS as part of its icing. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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