SJCC Library lost one of its most effective academic leaders in 2002 when Russ Fischer retired after 36 years. This past March Russ Fischer died a few weeks after his wife Ruth had died. Russ was 86. Russ’s leadership exemplified the fine tradition of great respect for libraries in our public and academic communities and institutions.
Russ was a private person with a deep intellect, an often subtle but also robust sense of humor, and talents in management, structure, collection development, respect, meticulous organization and fairness to other employees and colleagues. He encouraged library staff to participate in both faculty and classified campus governing bodies.
Russ was a Canadian-American who began at SJCC in 1966, became Head Librarian about 1976, and eventually Dean of Learning Resources. One former colleague stated that he was the “fairest, gentlest, nicest boss I ever had. Russ was intelligent and educated in musical scores and played classical guitar.” Russ and I shared an appreciation of classical music and we would often meet at San Francisco Symphony concerts. SJCC Library was known for having a fine arts and music collection.
Another instructor has stated that “Russ cared about SJCC history and student engagement. Partly because of Russ the library has a deep archive of SJCC’s student newspaper, the SJCC Times. The value of this archive is indispensable as a record of how socially aware and passionate the student body was in the 1960s & ’70s. Other documents the library saved under Russ’s leadership are schedules of classes – important to understanding how dedicated our District was to providing a wide variety of classes to students all over Santa Clara County – which do not exist today. Who would know they ever did if Russ had not saved the schedules?”
Russ was noted for walking to work every day, about a mile as I remember. In Spring 1990(?) Russ took a sabbatical to research the new aspects of computer technology in libraries, knowledge soon applied to SJCC Library’s development. This was a sea change for improved access to information for library users.
Those of us who worked with Russ or remember him as a colleague are saddened by the loss of his dedication to the good things in life – education, libraries, music and decency toward others.
Contributors to this tribute are: Scott Alkire, Judith Francisco, and Marian Fricano