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Deputy University Librarian Donald Barclay Retires

Thu, June 30, 2022 8:15 AM

Deputy University Librarian Donald Barclay retires June 30th after 20 years at UC Merced and over 30 years as an academic librarian.

Barclay started at UC Merced in 2002 as the Assistant University Librarian and was one of the first seventy-five university hires. The opportunity to build a new UC campus and return to California motivated him to apply for the position while working at the Texas Medical Center. Though Barclay had held academic librarian positions at New Mexico State University and the University of Houston, he had familiarity with the UC system having completed masters’ degrees in both English and Library and Information Science from the University of California, Berkeley. During his time at UCB, he also worked at the Bancroft Library honing his cataloging skills.

Prior to the campus opening, Barclay had office space at the deactivated Castle Air Force Base, along with other UC Merced employees. In those early days, he especially enjoyed envisioning a 21st century academic library, creating “something from nothing”. According to Barclay, this start-up phase “was a blast” that provided lots of room for creativity. The transition to building and mentoring a highly-skilled and motivated library staff team continued to be interesting and important work. Memorable events included the shovel-ready dedication of the campus on October 27, 2002, a tense and careful installation of the Amri glass donor recognition -- a valuable piece of carved crystal art -- hung in the McFadden Willis Reading Room to inspire future students (2005), and the Dear Michelle campaign that brought First Lady Michelle Obama to campus as the 2009 commencement speaker. 

With founding University Librarian R. Bruce Miller, Barclay invented the blueprint of the 21st century academic library which anticipated a more digitally-oriented library without reliance on print journals or separate reference collections. This drafting of a new academic library did not require perfection but rather risk-taking. Barclay notes that even planning a cafe in an academic library was considered unusual 20 years ago, and to our knowledge, we were the first to do it. A library school student at the time interviewed Barclay about the inclusion of a cafe because it seemed “so out there.” Barclay makes an analogy that the UC Merced Library could be compared to the Oakland A’s in the film Moneyball where they (and we) had to compete in a different way. “The big market teams figured out what they were doing and started doing it as well. What people thought was weird and outrageous has now become commonplace.”

Barclay brought a breadth of experience to UC Merced that served him well in a small start-up library environment with experience in archives, public services, technology, cataloging, systems, scholarly publishing, and data. Though Barclay had a rich librarian career before arriving at UC Merced, he felt like he made his mark on librarianship here. While hired initially as Assistant University Librarian for Public Services, he was promoted to Associate University Librarian and made Deputy University Librarian in 2008. He served as Interim University Librarian for four years following Miller’s retirement in 2011, and later returned to his role as Deputy University Librarian.

As part of his work, Barclay made significant contributions to UC Libraries for both local and systemwide benefits. As there were limited numbers of UC Merced Library staff early on, Barclay served on multiple UC Libraries’ committees including the Library Technology Advisory Group (LTAG), Heads of Public Service (HOPS), and the Systemwide Operations & Planning Advisory Group (SOPAG).

Barclay was a visionary who often advocated for services, tools, or principles long before there was broad support or deep interest across the UC Libraries. He was an early champion for shared digital reference service, a systemwide integrated library system, video conferencing for meetings, and open access publishing. In addition, he often brought a much needed public services perspective to conversations around library projects and priorities.

During his time on the Council of University Librarians (CoUL) he contributed to an assessment of staffing, envisioned the possibility of shared services, and worked with colleagues to propose a new framework for the UC Libraries’ advisory structure. Immediately after his CoUL service, Barclay served as CoUL’s planning lead which involved orchestrating the first meeting of the University Librarians (ULs) with then UC president Janet Napolitano. This set a precedent for ongoing annual meetings with UC UL’s and UC Presidential leadership. Recently, he chaired the Direction & Oversight Committee (DOC) which created a governance structure for the newly launched Systemwide Integration Library System (SILS).

While contributing to these high-level groups, Barclay has possessed a willingness to stay connected to the daily operations of the library, whether by launching the library’s first catalog, teaching classes about copyright, or meeting with students about their reference questions. Due to his amazing memory for random facts and an acute knowledge of the information landscape, Barclay is someone you want to confer with on any wicked reference question.

Colleagues have appreciated his willingness to share expertise and admired his ability to stay abreast of so many topics applicable to academic libraries. He anticipates that most will remember his sense of humor and fun but hopes that colleagues will remember his work to build the UC Merced Library. 

During his retirement, Barclay anticipates writing more. He has authored numerous articles, book chapters and more than ten books over the course of his career on topics ranging from the literature of the American West, to children’s literature, to library and information science. His most recent book Disinformation: The Nature of Facts and Lies in the Post-Truth Era came out in April 2022 as a follow-up to Fake News, Propaganda, and Plain Old Lies: How to Find Trustworthy Information in the Digital Age (2018); it spent two months as an Amazon #1 New Release. To follow his regular blog posts, visit his website Information, Please!

In addition to writing, he plans on remaining active in the University Friends Circle and continuing to serve as a Merced County Library Commissioner. He is also Vice President of the Friends of Merced County Library and will become President shortly after his retirement. He says, “I will definitely stay busy and keep my hand in the university and community.”

Thanks Donald for your many contributions to the UC Merced Library, UC Libraries, the campus, and our community. Congratulations on your retirement!

Donald Barclay