Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Samuel Hodesson, DVM and the Veterinary Medicine Library

For some reason I was checking out the home page of the Veterinary Medicine Library at Ohio State University the other day and discovered it had been renamed The Samuel and Marian Hodesson Veterinary Medicine Library. So I started poking around the college alumni files, the college records, the AVMA obituaries and the OSUL records and found no information on this name change. I asked the Ag Librarian and she didn't know about the change, and I e-mailed the vet librarian, and got no response. So I'll write up what I know.

Sometime in the late 1990s, a man in his 80s walked into my library. I considered myself to be the front-line PR person for the College of Veterinary Medicine. I was always very nice to school children (future veterinary students) who called or came in for school projects, and alumni (future donors) who sometimes became sentimental about the library or college as they aged. My library had the largest endowment of any library in the system.

Dr. Hodesson wanted to know how to do database searching for journal articles about dog disease. Many people that age are reluctant to try new things, but not Dr. Hodesson. He was excited about the possibilities of computer searching and lapped up information about boolean logic and British spelling. Fortunately, he found me--I'd worked in the 80s for the Ohio Department of Aging, and knew that older people (actually, anyone over 25) learn similarly to children with learning disabilities. "Hear it, see it, say it, do it." And they can learn new tasks--it just takes a bit longer. So I spent several hours with him that day (his wife was in town at a dog show), and he happily left with many pages of print-outs. (Tip for librarians: don't make visitors pay for printing--they could be donors.) Thereafter, we had numerous phone calls and I would copy table of contents and send them to him. Unfortunately, the one thing he really wanted, to be able to log on and do his own searching, was not possible. There was no way to provide an alumnus with an off site login--no matter how much money he offered. I just checked the library's instructions for this, and even today, even with the library named for him, he would not be able to do this from Arizona.

Soon I received a letter that he wanted to donate money to the library to establish such a program. But I was a bit careless and naive, and let the college administration know of my wonderful Dr. Hodesson. Technically, I had no independently controlled funds--someone else always held the purse strings, so I had to find the right department (and the university always takes a steep percentage of any gift to pay for administering it).

Obtaining money for an academic library through an endowment is very tricky: 1) as a library, you have no specific constituency like a department or program, and can't solicit funds; 2) donors like to see things that will last, but you really need money for staff or for serials, which are the big ticket items and require a continuing account; 3) if the Dean of the college or the library director finds out ahead of time that a donor is specifically interested in donating to your library, he'll find a way to grab it away from you redirect it to their own control because everyone's job these days depends on finding outside funding, especially for buildngs.

In the case of the Segall Endowment for the Veterinary Library, no one knew Dr. Sam Segall had money so no one asked for it, and no one knew until he died that the Veterinary Library was in his will (he also established a scholarship for minority vet students). So that was a done deal (late 80s). Some of the smaller endowments I had were in memory of deceased faculty and had quietly been compounding and growing. Over the years, records of them had sort of disappeared until I inquired after pouring over old files after a visit from a very old retired faculty member who remembered when it was set up.

So the college development officer made it clear to me that Dr. Hodesson would be their contact, not mine. I lost touch with him, then I retired in 2000 after working for years on plans for a new library (which I hated doing and never liked how it turned out). What a surprise to see his name now on that very library!

From a University of Arizona newsletter, I learned Dr. Hodesson died on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2003. He was a graduate of OSU, had served in Korea, was a practicing veterinarian and in 1967 became the director at the College of Medicine animal facility at the University of Arizona. From 1990 until his death, he was a contributing editor for Dog News and other popular animal health publications. His wife Marian is a well-known dog show judge, active in that field since the 1940s.

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