REMEMBERING HELENE BAUMANN
22 SEPTEMBER 2006


By David Easterbrook, Northwestern University


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I am David Easterbrook, curator of the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University. I am here today because the friendship I have had with Helene over the past 20 or so years has been a significant part of my life as an African studies librarian. I am also here representing the Africana Librarians Council, the ALC of the African Studies Association whose members, including myself, have experienced over many years Helene’s warmth and generosity in friendship as well as her commitment to hard work and to the accomplishment of our cooperative projects.

Our minutes record Helene attended ALC meetings for the first time in April 1984 at the University of Virginia. She presented to the group at this first meeting a questionnaire she had developed focused on the acquisition of African government documents. The results of her findings became the basis for her MLS thesis the following year.

Helene became a regular at our meetings and immediately began to participate in many ways. Over the years she served in innumerable official and ad hoc capacities for both the ALC and for the Cooperative Africana Microform Project, CAMP. These included spring meeting host, ALC Chair, CAMP Chair and first chair of our Task Force that worked with the Association of Research Libraries-Association of American Universities-Mellon project which today we call the Global Resources Network and has resulted in AFRINUL, the online African Newspapers Union List.

In addition, there are committees, sub-committees, task forces, ad hoc groups that existed over the years in which she participated, and in many of these she also took a leadership role. A few of these were not easy assignments. I recall in particular her efforts to get us to talk about acquisitions budgets and to share comparative data. Some of us were reluctant to participate or were even unable to given the various disclosure policies at our institutions. Another challenging effort I recall (this time I was a member of the sub-committee Helene chaired) was a full revision of our ALC by-laws which had long needed attention. Her work with African photographs over the past few years has been a significant contribution to an area of expanding collections interest and use in our work. In all our ALC and CAMP efforts, she never lost sight of what our over all purpose is, to preserve and make accessible African studies resources to those who need them regardless of who or where they might be.

In our efforts to honor Helene, the ALC has adopted a plan in which members will place in our respective libraries an Africana book with a bookplate appropriately marked in her honor. We will also host, as is our custom, a gathering during the African Studies Association annual meeting this November at which time ALC members and other s attending the conference can share their recollections and celebrate Helene’s life.

Helene will be remembered in the ALC for the friendship she offered all of us—librarians, booksellers, library school students, African visitors—whoever. Helene will be especially remembered for the way in which she welcomed and followed through in mentoring new comers to the ALC. I believe her sensitivity and concern in this area was modeled after her own experience in our group and came from her commitment to expanding our active membership.

Speaking personally, I will always be grateful for the way in which we worked together to get a job done, but found time to enjoy one another’s friendship at the same time. I will also never forget the way in which Helene remembered aspects of my non-librarian life that were important to me and expressed her care and support in meaningful ways.

My personal experience in friendship with Helene is not unique within the ALC. Her warmth, kindness and generous spirit—her engaging smile—were experienced by all of us. We will miss her always while giving thanks for her presence among us.

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