Locke Morrisey, RIP

Posted on 14 December 2010 at 9:01 pm in Career.

Locke Morrisey, Head of Collections, Reference and Research at the University of San Francisco’s Gleeson Library, passed away today, the victim of cancer. Locke served as my supervisor during my internship in Gleeson’s Reference Department in the fall of 2008 and I cannot begin to describe the degree to which he influenced my career, and I’m sure the careers of countless others.

Locke set the bar for reference services. He was an expert not just at finding answers or doing research but in showing others how to do the same. He was patient, his explanations were measured, and he also knew how to make you laugh or smile in the midst of teaching you. He could not be flustered.

He took great glee in the challenges of the profession — his “Intern Quiz” was legendary for its toughness, the most obscure, difficult and challenging reference inquiries he had ever received in his career (he claimed they were all real, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple were embellished for difficulty). His real objective wasn’t to see if you could come up with the answers. With many of the questions, we couldn’t, or it would take us days to figure out. His real goal was to see your process. How you went about performing research, and the depth of your knowledge of the different tools in a librarian’s toolkit. You weren’t punished for the questions you couldn’t answer; it simply gave Locke the opportunity to teach you the skills you needed to have in order to have answered it.

When USF librarians Joe and Penny stepped in to mentor interns during Locke’s absence this fall, they admitted they couldn’t figure out half the answers themselves!

I came to USF in 2008 having taken a year’s worth of classes in librarianship at San Jose State. I had never worked in a library, and still wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to do with my “career”. Five months at USF under Locke’s tutelage completely changed that. After coaching and coaxing me into being a competent reference librarian, he encouraged me to try teaching information literacy and research to students in a classroom, something I had never thought of doing or pursuing. Today classroom teaching is one of my specialties and one of the most important components of my job. Heck, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to work in an academic library before going to work for Locke. It was seeing his example of professionalism, his commitment to spreading good ideas, and working as a part of his incredible reference team — even if only as an intern — that completely shaped how I view what I do and why I do it.

Ever since interning at USF I have encouraged virtually every MLIS candidate I have met to intern at Gleeson Library before they graduate. While I enjoyed my experience in library school, nothing taught me more about being a librarian than trying to act like one under Locke’s guidance. I’m sorry that new up-and-coming students won’t get the opportunity that I did.

Two years after I worked for Locke, he didn’t hesitate in providing the referral that helped secure my librarian position. The last time I saw him — July this year, when I was about to start at HNU — he cheerfully waved and said that now that I was a librarian myself he looked forward to seeing me on the conference circuit.

I’m sure a thousand people knew Locke better than me – his family, his partner Al, his coworkers at USF, and so on – and I mourn with them. I mourn a man who served his profession, who valued his friends, who loved to laugh and teach. The world could use more men and women like Locke, not less. Rest in peace.

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1 Comment

  1. Comment by David Ransom on December 15, 2010 at 11:25 am.

    Only an occasional obituary in the NY Times rises to this clarity and sentiment. With this lucid remembrance, I now wish I could have met Locke Morrisey to witness what my son learned from him.

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