The University of Texas Libraries remembers an important scientist, insatiable library user and the source of the above quote — Gerhard Werner.
Gerhard’s first retirement was in 1989 when he left an extensive academic career as a medical doctor, dean, professor and researcher. Gerhard then began his second phase where is spent the next 5 years as Chief of Staff at Veterans Hospital in Pittsburg. His third retirement phase was as Research Scientists with Motorola here in Austin. This is where we all first met Gerhard and as if this wasn’t enough, soon he was also an adjunct professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. Until his recent death at 90 he studied complex adaptive systems, nonlinear dynamics and the conceptual foundation of neuroscience.
Gerhard’s wide ranging interests meant that he could regularly be seen in almost all of the libraries on campus at one time or another. His most likely venues were Life Science, Engineering, Physics Math Astronomy and PCL.
Gerhard was known and loved as a heavy libraries user. At the time of his death he had over 21 books checked out and 9 items on hold. What’s even more amazing is that he had requested over the last few years he requested that we purchase over 70 titles. We never denied him. Best of all he came to check them all out. What a feat. He was an intellectually and physically active man—he’d walk to any library on campus, carrying a stack of books and he’d always stop to chat.
His wonderful smile is evidenced in all his photos but particularly in the one taken at his 90th birthday.
Here are a few specific memories of Gerhard:
From Nancy Elder—Life Science Librarian
“Probably my favorite memory is of Gerhard popping in with a stack of books, saying he had to stock up for the weekend. I used to tease him about how much he could carry. I think Christmas was his least favorite time, because it would be “too many days” with no library to go to. He would really stock up before the holidays! The most remarkable thing was all of us thought he was “our” library user. Wherever I went on campus, there he would be: at PCL, at PMA, at Engineering and, seemingly, every day at Life Science. Not a week went by that he didn’t have a request for one of our New Books. The lack of a new book shelf at PCL was one of his longtime frustrations.
When it came to requesting books, Gerhard was unfailingly polite and appreciative. Never demanding, always asking with a please, for my birthday, for Christmas or “just one more request”. Once the book came in, he was always here first thing to check it out, sometimes commenting on the quality at return. His interests were so wide-ranging and his appetite so unquenchable, I could never pigeonhole what he would be interested in. As he said himself “I am insatiable when it comes to books.”
I’ve grown accustomed to Gerhard at my door, just waving or stopping by for a comment, several times a week; always cheerful, just happy to find yet another book to read. We will miss him at the door, at the desk to check out books, sharing tales of his conference travel, always on the track of a new author, new book or new idea.
From Susan Ardis—Engineering Librarian
“Gerhard was a wonderful library user. His impish delight in getting a book from the collections or one that we’d ordered specifically for him will always be remembered. What I liked best about Gerhard is that he always recognized library staff on campus–even if we were “out of our uniform location.” We all knew, just from what he borrowed that he had wide ranging interests and epitomized a lifelong learner who values libraries and books.
His smile, jaunty wave and enjoyment of libraries and books will forever remain with me. I saw him on campus two weeks ago getting a book on hold and he smiled and waved. He was one of a kind; he was one of the best.
From Larayne Dallas—Engineering Librarian
Several years ago he called one morning to apologize because he wouldn’t be able to return an overnight book he had checked out 9am. He wanted to explain why “ I had to take my wife to the emergency room.” My response was “Oh Gerhard—don’t worry about it. Return it when you can.” He was in later that morning to return the book and report all was well with his wife and say “you have to be very tough to be old.”
From Molly White —PMA
Molly shares with us two emails from Gerhard that aptly demonstrate why he was so loved by the Libraries.
I received an email from him requesting a book purchase on a Saturday, and replied that I would rush order it on Monday. Here is his reply:
Working on weekends is not good for your health !!!
This is what the Doctor says –
And here is another email:
On account of the libraries being closed today (Sunday), I suffer from withdrawal symptoms…
To alleviate my suffering would you please consider the following:
We do have in PMA the 2000 edition of the book by Didier Sornette, Critical Phenomena in Nature.
There is now a new edition available (2003) of which I currently have a copy on loan through ILL.
The new edition is significantly expanded and has also some new chapters.
Would you consider ordering a copy ? (published by Springer) It would be very helpful.
Susan Ardis is Head Librarian at the McKinney Engineering Library.