On being awarded the 2001 Winifred Sewell Prize of  SLA's (Special Libraries Association's) Biomedical and Life Sciences Division ...

July 20, 2001

Nancy R. Curtis, Treasurer
SLA Biomedical & Life Sciences Division
Science & Engineering Center
5729 Fogler Library
University of  Maine
Orono  ME 04469-5729

Re : 2001 Winifred Sewell Prize

Dear Ms. Curtis,

I received Virginia Lingle's call informing me about the 2001 Winifred Sewell Prize of SLA's Biomedical and Life Sciences Division with a sense of surprise, elation, and then regret.  Due to a prior commitment it was impossible for me to attend the annual meeting in San Antonio.  I wondered who might accept on my behalf  but Win Sewell solved this problem.  This late note of thanks to Virginia Lingle, Larry Wright, and the Award Committee is a token of my appreciation for the plaque, certificate, and check.  These were received while I was in San Francisco addressing the 40th anniversary meeting of the Sci-Tech Division of ALA.  There is irony in this turn of events as I am not a member of ALA.

I joined SLA's pharmaceutical division sometime in the 1950s and recall with special affection Charlotte Studer Mitchell of Miles Laboratories who played an important role in the eventual establishment of Current Contents.  My talk at ALA (http://garfield.library.upenn.edu/papers/acrl2001.html) could just as easily have been given in response to this SLA Award.  However, I would have added a few words about my long association with SLA through Winnie Sewell and classmates Anne McCann, Nancy R. Curtis, and Marge Courain.  Were I to wander down memory lane, I'd also have to mention Louis Lage, Claire Schultz, Evelyn Armstrong and numerous other SLA members who encouraged me in the early years of my career.

A description of my relationship with librarians would include the term love-hate.  Current Contents was a descendant of Contents in Advance for documentation journals.  I started it at the Welch Library in 1952.  From 1954 until 1956 it was published by Anne McCann.  In 1955, I began CC Social and Management Sciences with great support from Richard Gremlingof Bell Labs.  In 1957, Charlotte Studer asked me to start what later became CC Life Sciences; officially launched in 1958.

For Current Contents, we ordered foreign journals by airmail, which was unheard of in those days.  As a consequence, CC often listed the contents of journals well in advance of their receipt in libraries.  This caused consternation for some librarians who were badgered by users seeking articles listed in CC that were not yet available locally.  I've described many times my telephone encounter with Professor Robert B. Woodward of  Harvard who telephoned me so I could read him an article from Angewandte Chemie.

However, these inconveniences were outweighed by the increased use of journals in libraries.  Some institutions complained about this too!  Strangely enough, publishers often feared that CC would displace journal subscriptions but quite the opposite occurred.  And the demand for reprints was enormously increased, as were photocopies and subscriptions.  And special libraries in drug firms were the heaviest users of OATS (Original Article TearSheets), now called The Genine Article.

The Science Citation Index was launched in 1964.  A few years later special libraries used its by-product,   ASCA (Automatic Subject Citation Alert), now called Research Alert.  Then in the early seventies, when DIALOG added the SCI and SSCI to its list of databases, cited reference searching became more popular on the "pay as you go" system.

A significant commercial event in the history of Current Contents occurred when Merck ordered 500 subscription to Current Contents to replace the service it had been operating for over a decade.  When we started CC, we naively thought that firms like Lederle and Merck would gladly outsource this service but we were badly mistaken.  J. Alan MacWatt of Lederle has started an in-house service a decade earlier (Bulletin MLA, 43:203; 1955)

I'll proudly display the plaque in my home library but I prefer to return the check so that it can be used for future awardees or other scholarship purposes.

With deep appreciation, I remain,

Sincerely yours,
Eugene Garfield

cc : Winifred Sewell