The Abbey Newsletter

Volume 20, Number 6
Nov 1996

Susan Garretson Swartzburg

Susan Swartzburg, well-known author, teacher and advocate of preservation, died October 13 from complications of pneumonia after returning from the IFLA conference in China. She is survived by her husband Marshall and her son Mark.

Susan was a friend and protege of George Cunha, founder of the Northeast Document Conservation Center. In the last few years, she had been working on an updated edition of his comprehensive bibliography of preservation literature. This was just one of her many projects and activities here and abroad, which George Cooke described in fair detail in the December 1994 CAN (No. 56), in a three-page biographical sketch.

She received her MS in Library Science from Simmons in 1966 and in 1971, while on the staff of Yale University Library, was invited to develop a program for preservation of the library's collections, which she did for the next two years. From 1975 on, she worked as director, then preservation librarian at Alexander Library at Rutgers. Her interests centered on art books and rare book collections.

In 1980 she published her first book, Preserving Library Materials: A Manual. Two others followed. She presented papers at conferences, edited, wrote columns for newsletters, served on boards of publications and organizations (including Abbey Publications, for which she was first vice president) and abstracted literature for AATA, in addition to teaching, consulting, and organizing groups and programs. Her genius was in getting people together to make things happen in preservation. Her appetite for accomplishment was infectious, and her style of leadership or influence was democratic and non-interfering.

There was a memorial service for Susan at a chapel on campus, attended by former students and friends, as well as family. Several people spoke expressively on the occasion. One of them was Lorraine Perrotta, a former student, who forwarded her comments to me.

"I'm sure the few words I speak today will not convey the big impact Susan Swartzburg had on my life. When I was 22 years old and a wet-behind-the-ears art and English Major, just graduated from Rutgers University, Susan hired me to work with her in the library. When she asked 'Can you type?' I should have taken it as a warning, because Susan had a vast correspondence with librarians all over the world, as well as a constantly growing Preservation Bibliography, newsletter and journal articles-and it was all in her office, too, waiting to be typed on her old IBM Selectric!

"From the start, Susan treated me as a colleague, and within a few weeks Susan had summed me up and decided that 'of course you'll be going to library school!' Susan's passionate love of books and learning and her concern for deteriorating collections was overwhelming. I was quickly swept up in her enthusiasm, and with her great encouragement, applied and was accepted to library school.

"While I was a poor student going to library school at Columbia University, Susan would drive in and treat me to dinner and the ballet. Her confidence in my abilities never wavered, and meant a great deal to me as I struggled to make my way in the world. Susan was my mentor and my friend for 17 years, and I will miss her valuable advice on career matters, and I will miss her so much, in my life."

Susan asked that any memorial gifts be sent to a gift fund at Rutgers, because the Special Collections there were dear to her heart. Checks should be made out to "Special Collections Gift Fund, in memory of Susan Swartzburg," and sent to Special Collections, Alexander Library, New Brunswick, NJ 08903.

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