AVSL 50th Anniversary

AVSL at the New England College of Optometry (NECO)

Bette Anton, AVSL Chair 1988-1989

When I first starting working at UC Berkeley in 1979, I was fortunate to have been hired by one of AVSL’s “founding mothers,” Alison Howard. She took a little time involving me in AVSL and I attended my first meeting in 1980. What I remember about that first meeting was just how welcoming and supportive everyone was. Maybe it was because I naively volunteered to edit the next edition of the Union List, this at a time when cut and paste meant scissors and glue? No matter, it was an excellent introduction to the workings of our Association and the beginning of many lasting friendships, both personal and professional.

During my entire professional career, from that first meeting until I retired in 2014, AVSL was my professional home and family. The spirit of mutual help was always appreciated and always forthcoming. I can’t even count the times in which our collective wisdom has been pooled to benefit us individually and our respective communities.

I am proud of all we have accomplished as a group. We have added value to the vision literature and provided many services that have benefited the vision community. Here’s to the next 50 years of productivity, collegiality, and friendships for the AVSL.

For 50 years, the Association of Vision Science Librarians (AVSL) has met annually. The first meeting, in December of 1968 in Beverly Hills, California, marked the formation and official beginning of AVSL. Seventeen librarians attended the second meeting, in 1969, where the Association adopted a set of purposes:

  1. Fostering development of the individual libraries to which members are attached.
  2. Fostering cooperative development among the libraries to which members are attached.
  3. Developing mechanisms of controlling and making vision information available.
  4. Developing services, particularly reference and bibliographic services, for all individuals having frequent vision information needs.
  5. Securing financial assistance outside the institution of the respective libraries for accomplishing 1-4.
  6. Developing standards for optometry school library services.
  7. Recruiting, training, and helping young visual science librarians.

Maureen Watson, AVSL Chair 2002-2003

The AVSL is the best organization of librarians that there is. The members helped me when I was just starting out as the Optometry Librarian at Ferris State in 1987. I talked to Nancy Gatlin first and then started attending meetings. I also remember Pat Carlson from SCCO and what a great librarian and friend she was. A lot of the librarians I knew have retired now but I can still tell from the listserv that the AVSL is going strong and helping each other answer patron questions. I worked on the Salary, Status and Staffing Survey, the Opening Day Collection and the Mapping of the Vision Science Literature. I remember our fabulous meeting dinners and singing together in San Antonio. Happy anniversary AVSL!

While the tools, language, and mechanisms that AVSL librarians use have changed in the last 50 years, the set of purposes remains very similar. AVSL and its librarians are dedicated to working together for the betterment of the vision science community. Several of the projects that AVSL librarians have maintained over the decades include:

Suzanne Ferimer, AVSL Chair 1984-1985

I attended my first AVSL meeting in 1980, after being hired by the University of Houston College of Optometry.  At that time, each school or college had their own librarian and ophthalmology departments had their own librarians.  We had no email or internet, so all business of the organization was handled through the mail, phone, and later FAX.  This meant that when we got to the Academy meeting there was a ton of work to be done, by up to 30 members in attendance.  Taking handouts for presentations, handouts for information, handouts for assignments, handout lists, etc. weighed more than the luggage for clothes.  Also, the sharing of information about what was going on in both the libraries and the institutions was very informative.  The willingness of just about everyone to take on an assignment or task, working individually or on a committee, was something I felt was and is unique to AVSL and the professionalism of its members. 

Over the years the core membership stayed engaged, developing long lasting friendships.  Our group dinners throughout the years were a wonder.  And I feel not enough acknowledgment is given the individuals who had to find establishments who would serve veggies, vegan, gluten free, and meat eaters. At the heart of AVSL is service to the schools, colleges, and departments we served.  We strived to do the very best by providing searches, reference, classroom teaching, and keeping up with the profession of vision and our own library profession.  Over the years the schools, colleges, and departments honored their librarians by supporting their travel to the meetings and allowing their librarians to work on AVSL projects.  They recognized the benefits these activities brought to their organizations.  I am very proud to have been a part of such a vibrant, caring, and knowledgeable organization.

Douglas Freeman, AVSL Chair 1996-1997

As Head of the Indiana University Optometry Library I was an active AVSL member for twenty years, from 1990 until 2010, when I retired.  I found AVSL to be absolutely the best professional organization to which I ever belonged.  The members were (and I’m sure, still are) dedicated, hard-working librarians, and AVSL reflected these qualities.  The fact that my AVSL colleagues shared common goals and faced common problems, despite the fact that we were widely dispersed around the world, made us a more effective professional community.  In fact, that word “community” perfectly describes AVSL.  I know that I benefitted immensely from the members’ willingness–even eagerness–to support each other with information resources, advice, and even commiseration (when necessary).  That attitude of mutual support, whether in person or virtually, was absolutely essential to my effectiveness as a vision librarian.

Perhaps the most important development during my AVSL membership was the establishment of the AVSL “reflector,” (later listserv) which literally overnight revolutionized our ability to share each other’s resources in an extremely timely fashion and sometimes to amaze our patrons with our ability to obtain information quickly.  It also contributed to our cohesiveness as an organization.  Bette Anton, at UC Berkeley, deserves special recognition for organizing this essential tool and supporting it for years.

While virtually all AVSL members worked hard to share their resources with their colleagues, Reva Hurtes at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami deserves special mention as being particularly responsive and generous in sharing her institution’s resources.  I know she saved my bacon more than once!

I have many recollections of our professional meetings over the years, both summer and midwinter.  I think I missed only one meeting during my twenty-year tenure, and I always looked forward to getting together with my colleagues from all over the country–and occasionally the entire world.  I found the discussions and presentations to be particularly important, and because of their vision library focus, they were always relevant to my own library. Less tangible, but perhaps no less important, were the friendships that we developed as a vision science library community. 

On a personal note, I made it my practice to drive to many of the meetings that weren’t too far away, including places as far away from my home base in Indiana as San Antonio, Denver, Boston, Orlando, and Philadelphia.  Occasionally I drove my antique VW camper, just to add a little adventure to the trip, and sometimes I drove a more modern pickup truck/camper combination.  (I flew to the more distant meetings, as any reasonable person should.)  On these adventures I stayed in local campgrounds when possible, but on at least a couple of occasions I parked and slept in members’ driveways—Judy Schaeffer Young’s and Pam Sieving’s come to mind.  I particularly recall driving my VW camper with Judy Schaeffer Young, Bette Anton, Claudia Perry, and Claudia’s husband Tom through the Philadelphia area to the restaurant for our annual “banquet.”  One of these individuals was inspired to pretend that we were a dysfunctional family on a road trip, with Mom and Dad in the front and three “children” in the back.  The effect was particularly hilarious as the children “fought” with each other as children do in the back seat of a car, complete with such claims as “Tommy is crowding me!” and “Bette is staring at me!”

The annual AVSL banquet always was plenty of fun.  Memories include riding in the back of Laurel Gregory’s pickup truck to the restaurant during a meeting in San Francisco (or maybe Seattle?) while she and Bette Anton sat comfortably in front.  Actually, that wasn’t so much fun.  And who could forget the belly dancer entertaining us, and particularly Jerry Dujsik, at the restaurant in Boston?  Sometimes the adventures occurred outside of the meetings and dinners.  For example, how about the time, in San Diego, when Judy Schaeffer Young and I wandered around Tijuana searching for the local Hard Rock Café so she could purchase a tee shirt for her unlikely collection of Hard Rock Café tee shirts from around the world? 

These are only a few of my memories from my time as an AVSL member.  It should be obvious to the reader that I view the personal relationships with my colleagues to be an important benefit of AVSL participation, and I’m sure that this camaraderie among members continues to this day.