- Introduction:Donald G. Davis, Jr.: A Gentleman and a Scholar
This collection can be read as evidence of the connection so many library and book historians feel toward Donald G. Davis, Jr. As a respected scholar, beloved teacher, and magnanimous colleague, Don has inspired us all to work hard and to take joy in the work. When the invitation went out to a selected group of scholars to contribute to this festschrift in honor of Don on the occasion of his retirement, the enthusiastic acceptances came back quickly. Suggestions for additional contributors came back as well, so many that it was impossible to include them all in a single special issue of the journal Don has so ably edited for more than a quarter century. Don has a worldwide circle of friends and admirers. Every single one of them would have sent in a wonderful paper had we asked.
Don joined the faculty of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS, now the School of Information) at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) in 1971. There he developed and taught courses covering the history of printing, books, libraries, and civilization, and collection management, among others. He welcomed colleagues and students into his office, overcrowded with shelves and shelves of books, and met them wherever they were in their lives and career trajectories.
The modest man in the suit was actually a node in several different but overlapping networks. A dedicated participant in the community known as the Library History Round Table (LHRT) of the American Library Association (ALA), he and fellow members were responsible for so much of the new knowledge produced in the United States about the library past. Overlapping somewhat with this group was the dynamic network of authors, editorial board and staff, referees, and book reviewers that coalesced around Libraries & Culture, the scholarly publication formerly known as the Journal of Library History that Don had [End Page 207] saved from an untimely death when he became editor in 1977. Don reinvigorated the journal (now in its fortieth volume year) and, by extension, the field of library history by attracting to it an interdisciplinary and international group of writers and readers interested in "the significance of collections of recorded knowledge—their creation, organization, preservation, and utilization—in the context of cultural and social history," as the journal's homepage puts it.
In 1980 the GSLIS at UT, through Don Davis's organizing efforts, hosted the sixth Library History Seminar; these seminars take place every five years and bring together library historians from all over the world. The theme of the seminar, Libraries & Culture, ultimately provided the new name for the Journal of Library History. Other overlapping communities and collaborators revolved around his work on standard reference sources such as American Library History: A Comprehensive Guide to the Literature (with John Mark Tucker, 1989), Encyclopedia of Library History (with Wayne A. Wiegand, 1994), and the Dictionary of American Library Biography, 2nd Supplement (2003).
But Don's involvement and influence extended beyond these activities. He cultivated a network of Texas-based educators and librarians and promoted the study of Texas library history by organizing local conferences and publishing his own work on the topic. Similarly, he stayed connected to his Ph.D. alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and to colleagues and friends there in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science. And Don did not hesitate to call on friends to further the cause of history. For example, he arranged for historian Wayne Wiegand to visit UT to help make students aware of a key historical figure, Melvil Dewey. Wiegand's biography of Dewey was about to be released, and Wayne, costumed as the "irrepressible reformer," gave a memorable one-man performance. Two historians and educators had made it possible—Don by enabling it and Wayne by enacting it—for graduate students to experience history and biography in a creative way.
In another instance, Don called on a friend from the 1960s, when they had both been graduate students in library science at the University of California at...