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In Memory of Julia Claire Blixrud, 1954–2014

Julia Blixrud,
photo by Keith Russell

All of us at ARL, CNI, and SPARC are mourning the death of our dear colleague and friend Julia Blixrud, who lost her decade-long fight with cancer on Wednesday, October 29, 2014, at the age of 59. Julia’s greatest professional legacy is likely her work dedicated to opening up access to information for all. Her personal legacy includes the effervescent energy and uncommon kindness that she generously gave to her family, friends, and colleagues with her enduring optimism, resilient character, and contagious smile. These personal and professional legacies are intertwined in many ways, perhaps illustrated most powerfully in an interview Julia gave to NBC News in 2004, discussing the importance of open access to information in the context of her own serious health challenges.

We were fortunate to have worked with Julia for almost 18 years at ARL. She joined the staff in December of 1996 and during her time here she worked with many of ARL’s programs, including Statistics and Assessment; Research, Teaching, and Learning; Leadership Development and the former Office of Leadership and Management Services; Visiting Program Officers; Diversity Programs; and Scholarly Communication. She provided staff support to the Association’s Membership Committee and the Advancing Scholarly Communication Steering Committee. From August 1999 to spring 2009, Julia also served as the assistant director for public programs at SPARC. In April of 2009, she became ARL’s assistant executive director for scholarly communication and assumed responsibility for supporting ARL’s long history of leadership in promoting positive change in the scholarly communication system.

Julia was the essence of collegiality. She would jump in whenever help was needed and contribute to the fullest. She tackled new tasks with focus and with a deep understanding of what had been done or tried previously in order to identify new approaches to an issue or intractable problem. Given her sense of history and her wisdom, Julia has been ARL’s institutional memory. What many of us will always remember is her stunning and ever-present smile. Be it on video chat or in the office, her optimism and sunny demeanor moved all of us a lot farther along on any project—including the renovation of the ARL offices this past winter. She was instrumental in making that project—and many others—a success.

Julia’s 35-year career in the library community also included positions at CAPCON and Minitex library networks, the Council on Library Resources, and the Library of Congress. Early in her career, she spent 1983 to 1986 at ARL, as the project manager of the grant-funded CONSER A&I Coverage Project to add abstracting and indexing information to a national serials database. Julia’s interests and professional activities spanned cooperative programs, serials, technical standards, library assessment, intellectual property, and scholarly communication.

In 2007 Julia received the CSA/Ulrich’s Serials Librarianship Award from the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS). In announcing the award ALCTS wrote:

From print to online, from punch cards to digitization, Julia Blixrud has been at the forefront of developments in serials work and scholarly communication. With more than 70 publications and a record of presentations in virtually every state of the union and internationally, Blixrud’s contributions to the advancement of serials librarianship are unparalleled. She has labored tirelessly in her outreach efforts within the library and academic communities to broaden understanding of the complex economic and political issues in scholarly publishing. Only an exceptionally skilled individual could spearhead fundamental change in our system of scholarly publishing. On top of her outstanding credentials and deep knowledge of the issues, Blixrud enjoys an outstanding reputation among her peers.

Julia’s brave and generous spirit lives on in her many contributions to the library community and in her smile that we remember so well.

Funeral services will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 2, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lawrence, Kansas, where Julia was often an assisting minister, reader, cantor, and choir member. Julia’s family has chosen two of her favorite organizations as possible places to send donations in her name via Warren-McElwain Mortuary: Trinity Lutheran Church and the Oncology Center at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.