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Passing of Audrey Kerr


It is with great sadness that we inform you that Audrey Kerr passed away on Monday June 23, 2014. For thirty years Audrey headed the Medical Library of the Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba.  Her dedication and service to the Faculty of Medicine, to the University, to her staff and to the medical and health community at large, provincially and nationally, were widely acknowledged and earned her the highest esteem.  At her retirement she held the rank of Librarian in the Libraries and Professor in the Faculty of Medicine.  Her contributions to the Faculty of Medicine were recognized when she received “Professor Emeritus” status at the Spring 1996 Convocation. She was awarded the tile of Librarian Emerita in 2004.
Among her accomplishments, Audrey was recognized for her part in founding the Faculty of Medicine Archives in 1973.  She was instrumental in planning the Neil John Maclean Health Sciences Library, and ensuring that the newest information technologies and most current concepts of networking and resource sharing are used to provide information services to the health sciences community into the 21st century.
Audrey’s career spans numerous accomplishments and “firsts”.  Audrey developed the Medical Library Extension Library Service for rural Manitoba physicians in 1979.  Through funding from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, this was one of the first outreach medical library services of its kind in Canada and has served as a model for similar services.  Through on-site visits and follow-up contact, the Extension Service also provided consulting advice in the operation of rural hospital library facilities.  The Extension Service provided professional informational and educational support for Manitoba physicians until 1995. 
For her pioneering efforts in establishing service to this special community of users, the University of Manitoba presented Audrey with a Presidential Outreach Award. To ensure that the information needs of all the physicians and health personnel within Winnipeg were filled quickly, Audrey initiated the Medical Library Local Loan Service.  This service has provided free document delivery to most health libraries in the city for over fifteen years. Even when staff resources were stretched, the Medical Library continued to fill most Local Loan requests within twenty-four hours.
In 1983 Audrey helped establish the WHINET (Winnipeg Health Information Network) project through funding from the Winnipeg Foundation.  The pilot project permitted the hiring of a librarian to support and enhance resource sharing among area health libraries and their users. Audrey also played a primary role in initiating and obtaining funding for the St. Boniface Hospital University of Manitoba joint library automation project (Bridge).  As the University representative in the planning of the St. Boniface Carolyn Sifton Medical Library, she was instrumental in gaining special grant monies for the Sifton foundation to fund an automation project for this new hospital library.  With Audrey’s active support, this concept was eventually expanded to bring together electronically the resources of the teaching hospital and the University Libraries.
Throughout her career, Audrey had a special interest in introducing new information technologies to enhance library service to the health community, for example with the appearance of the first Apple II computer in the library in the early 1980’s, Audrey promoted the use of computer-based learning programs and interactive video technology to support medical education within the Faculty of Medicine.  Her enthusiastic support of these technologies was instrumental in developing the Ross Microcomputer Learning Resources Centre.  Audrey was a leader in introducing and promoting computer-based literature retrieval systems.  As early as 1970 the first online searching of the National Library of Medicine Medlars databases was available in the Medical Library.  In 1985 one of the first CD-ROM based Medline systems was purchased for end users.
Audrey was a founding member of the Manitoba Health Libraries Association and the Canadian Health Libraries Association, as well as the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges (ACMC) Subcommittee on Medical School Libraries.  She was also a founding member of the Manitoba History of Medicine Society.  She has made numerous contributions to these groups.  Through the ACMC Committee on Medical School Libraries she was the co-editor of the 1966 report, which led to the establishment in 1967 of the Health Sciences Resource Centre at CISTI.  From 1975 to 1983 she was a member of the NRC Advisory Board on Scientific and Technical Information.
The University recognized her achievements by awarding her with the Peter D. Curry Chancellor’s Award in 1994. This award is made annually to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the development of the University of Manitoba.


A few years ago I was comparing pyramids for a section in my PhD thesis, and asked Audrey to send me a copy of her 1970 article because I couldn't get it from other sources (Kerr, A.M. (1970) The medical library or the problem of Solomon. University of Manitoba Medical Journal, 41, 1, 25-30).  Although she did not know me, she sent it along within about a week and apologized for the delay. 

Perhaps other pyramids were published before Audrey's; hers was the earliest I could find.  I only knew of it from a presentation she made at Dalhousie in the fall of 1980 - my second year of MLIS.  In that presentation the tip was a lightbulb representing an idea, and she included the invisible college of expert information sharing.  I recall it as the single most important thing I learned as a student.  I used it from memory in all of my intro information literacy sessions, always.  Her presentation has influenced my thinking about the importance of in-class guest lecturers.

At the time of Audrey's presentation, videos were "big" in medical education (but - at least at Dalhousie - the format had not been standarized between beta and VHS). She spoke of Manitoba medical students who showed her how they were using the videos.  Working collaboratively they were sharing out the job of viewing the videos, each individual video-watcher making sketches and notes as they watched - then each student would make a copy.  Audrey said her comment was "Congratulations, you've just invented the book!"

 Doreen Fraser, Dalhousie's s health sciences or medical librarian before Allan MacDonald,  taught the MLIS health course and worked at Dalhousie's School of Library Service until 1980.  She described Audrey Kerr as the brightest student she ever had.

And this is my memory of Audrey Kerr.

Jackie MacDonald