The Tomorrow Librarian: Harold Billings' Legacy as Director of the University of Texas Libraries 1978-2003

Advocacy & Leadership

The analog to digital transition was a particularly challenging time for libraries everywhere. During Harold W. Billings’ term as director of the University of Texas Libraries from 1978 to 2003, libraries were under the scrutiny of critics predicting their eventual irrelevance. To this Billings responded,

I don’t believe a word of it... The information world, now wild with its riders and rich in its unstructured wonders, will require the attention of architects and planners, builders, guides, computing and security officers, and information specialists if it is to be turned from wilderness into the rational, near limitless, knowledge structure that is possible”. 

Near the beginning of his tenor as director, the Perry-CastaƱeda Library building was completed and opened as the main library branch. By his retirement in 2002, UT Libraries vastly expanded their resources to include both access to online databases and a new 21st Century study area and computer workstation. 

Billings’ support for the libraries was ongoing, and in 2003 the UT Libraries Staff Honors Endowment was renamed for Billings. The Harold Billings Fund for Collection Enhancement was established in 2006 as the result of a donation by his daughter, Carol Billings Blood, to support the purchase of books and materials for the libraries. 

Through Billings' skill in building partnerships, his openness to the evolving role of librarians, and his passionate advocacy for the field, UTL not only weathered these changes but built its reputation as one of the nation’s top-ranking research libraries

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