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Remembering Barbara Quint

Posted On November 7, 2017

“Even if we start in the right direction, trip and fall, pick ourselves up, start off again, wander off course, fall asleep, and get arrested for vagrancy, at least we’ll have tried to seek a better path, to break out of the one-foot-after-another rut, to take a new lead. As another wiseacre once said, ‘Life is like the Iditarod race. If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes.’”

—Barbara Quint, The Quintessential Searcher

Barbara Quint, known throughout the information industry as bq, died peacefully on Oct. 4. She had recently retired from her positions as senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and columnist for Information Today. Early in her career, she worked at RAND Corp. as head of reference services. She was instrumental in founding SCOUG (Southern California Online Users Group) and joined Information Today, Inc. in 1993. The Quintessential Searcher: The Wit and Wisdom of Barbara Quint was published in 2001.

Beth Dempsey, communications and creative services senior manager, ProQuest:

I will remember bq with a smile—she was so kind to me and always made me laugh … always made me think. Whenever she called, I sat back in my chair, put my feet on my desk, and prepared for a long and interesting conversation. We would start with business and end up, well, any number of places … like which actor was the superior Scrooge (George C. Scott vs. Alastair Sim). Our discussions were lively and warm, but she was challenging. I never let execs meet with her without prep work, helping them buckle in for what would be a very fast, and possibly dangerous, ride. My advice to them: be prepared for tough questions; be honest (you can’t fool her); enjoy the debate and have some fun; listen to her and you’ll learn something.

She was one of a kind and I’ll miss her.

Jane Dysart, senior partner, Dysart & Jones Associates:

Barbara Quint was definitely one of the brightest people in the information industry. Her view was amazing and her reach even more astounding. She would laser focus on a change from a database company and go to the top to find answers and understanding she could share with readers of ONLINE magazine and her column. Heads of the organizations of the information industry not only respected Barbara and her knowledge, but also listened to her thoughts and ideas. And, she was a fantastic ideas person. She and I had many a conversation about her ideas for our industry, for conferences, for articles. Our information community feels the loss of her enthusiastic insights, depth of knowledge, and friendly personality.

Clare Hart, CEO, Sterling Talent Solutions:

We lost a legend on Oct. 4: Barbara Quint, a true pioneer in the information (and data) industry. One of my earliest memories of Barbara is the annual Information Industry Association (IIA) Conference in Palm Springs, Calif., in 1991. At the last minute, I was asked to present the Dow Jones new product—DowVision—story because a colleague could not attend. I was terrified that Barbara Quint would ask me a horrible question that I couldn’t answer. Luckily, she didn’t. Over the years there were many interviews and conversations with Barbara, and what was most impressive about her was how completely plugged-in she was to what was happening in the information industry. Yes, she asked tough questions—and this became a sport for her, but her true motivation was her readers. Barbara believed she had an obligation to her readers, and her insights, deep analysis, and truths are what drove her loyal following. Of course, her great laugh and strong personality helped too!

Dick Kaser, VP of content, Information Today, Inc.:

Back in the ’80s I was working in PR for a database producer. One day my boss walked into my office, threw an issue of her magazine on my desk and said, “Make her quit saying these terrible things about us.” How naive—for there was no silencing that voice, until now. A decade later, as the fates would turn, she would come to “report” to me. And that was the first story I told her. How ironic. With a mind as sharp as steel and a tongue that could bite, she was both erudite and witty. During many a long phone call she kept me giggling with her high capacity to turn a phrase. Every politician, every CEO, every industry is enriched by its critics. And our industry is impoverished by her loss.

Amelia Kassel, industry journalist (thanks to bq’s energetic encouragement and support):

My heart is breaking. I remember hearing bq speak at my first Online Conference in or around the mid-1980s (later?) in San Francisco, taking a vendor’s pricing model to task during a session when no one else would dare do that. Barbara was the industry watchdog of her day, an overseer and powerhouse who sometimes perturbed vendors but was always truthful. She watched out for the interests of libraries/librarians and all information professionals, was an amazing wit, creative thinker, and so much more. From time to time, she called me about writing an article. She came up with interesting ideas, often suggesting topics I would have never thought about on my own. I always assigned a bq search exercise to students during my years teaching at the San Jose Graduate School of Library and Information Science with the goal of making next-generation information professionals aware of Barbara. The exercise consisted of a search for Barbara’s articles with follow-up discussion. Each student selected one article to share in class. Lively interactions ensued. Students always appreciated her humor and wisdom.

I’ll miss our bq.

Irene McDermott, city librarian, Crowell Public Library in San Marino, Calif.:

I began writing for bq twenty years ago: 1997, just four years after the birth of the graphical World Wide Web. I was working at the University of Southern California, where librarians are considered faculty, and they wanted me to publish. I was fresh out of library school and somewhat ambitious, so I eagerly accepted the chance to write the Internet Express column in Searcher magazine when dear Aggi Raeder suggested that I succeed her.

Over the next twenty years, bq and I offered witness and weighed the significance of the web as it exploded and morphed, finally into a monster that could sway a presidential election as well as offer life-saving information. And now, suddenly, my friend and fellow web-traveler bq is gone. It feels unsettlingly strange that the web will go on without her …

Marydee Ojala, editor-in-chief, Online Searcher:

Barbara was very proud of being a librarian, and she was a huge champion of libraries, librarians, and information professionals. She promoted the profession, believing it was a force for good in the world. She used to joke, though, that since her degrees were from Immaculate Heart College, a school that closed down in 1981, she actually only had a high school education.

Lauree Padgett, editorial services manager, Information Today, Inc.:

I started working with bq when Searcher: The Magazine for Database Professionals made its debut at the National Online Meeting in May 1993. The first few years were rough. bq’s definition of “deadline” was “when she got around to it,” and we had more than a few loud long-distance rows about the fact that the production process did not have a 24-hour turnaround time. Eventually, we found a better flow (we just gave bq “due” dates that were way ahead of schedule, and she pretended not to know it). Once we (mostly) worked the kinks out, we became not just West Coast-East Coast co-workers, but friends. We shared similar views on many topics, and when we didn’t, still respected (and usually debated) the other’s opinions. I knew of her abiding affection for John Wayne and James Garner, and she knew about my devotion to Hugh Jackman. That devotion, in fact, led bq to do one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I was trying to get a videotape of Jackman’s performance as Curly in Oklahoma! but was having no luck finding it in VHS format, which I lamented about to her. Not many days later, I got a package in the mail from bq: a DVD of the production. When I called to thank her, I said, “This is great, bq, but I don’t have a DVD player.” “Oh, you will,” was the reply. And sure enough, the DVD player quickly followed. That is what I will remember and miss the most about bq: her generosity of spirit. She always wanted to share what she had with the world—her knowledge, her time, and her friendship.

George Plosker, principal, George Plosker & Associates:

One of the highlights of my career in the information industry was being named the regional manager for the new Dialog office in Los Angeles by Roger Summit. I moved to Southern California and really looked forward, admittedly with some trepidation, to meeting the leaders of the online community in LA, especially the legendary Barbara Quint, who was then the chairperson of SCOUG.

Barbara worked at RAND at the time and was known worldwide as one of the most knowledgeable online searchers and pioneers in the rapidly growing information industry. Barbara, and the entire SCOUG membership, welcomed me to SoCal, and I was invited to speak at several SCOUG annual meetings.

I learned many things from Barbara, who never hesitated to call me to “suggest” improvements to Dialog. These ideas were always passed on to the product and senior management teams at Dialog headquarters in Palo Alto, and these conversations continued during my tenure at Gale and the IEEE.

Probably the most important takeaway was learning to be even more customer- and market-driven. I became an advocate for the customer point of view, but could never match the passion, persistence, and determination of Barbara, who was the original and ultimate voice of the insightful online searcher/user. We will all miss her, but will never forget what a powerful force she was.

Aggi Raeder, University of California–Los Angeles science and engineering librarian, now retired:

I first met Barbara Quint, aka bq, in the late sixties at the RAND Corporation. When we early information professionals (read: librarians) heard Barbara had the only online terminal on the West Coast, and it was hard-wired to The New York Times full-text database, we all came to watch and learn as Barbara did her magic of precision retrieval. Barbara generously shared her skills by offering training and urged us to join the new exciting future of online information.

Barbara soon organized us into SCOUG. Under her energetic leadership, we held workshops and conferences and the wonderful SCOUG Retreats to help us keep ahead of these burgeoning information resources. Industry representatives were also invited, exposing them to what searchers and end users needed to make databases useful.

She was insightful, incredibly smart, articulate, and very witty. In 1985, she turned her energies to writing and editing Database Searcher. Later in 1993, Information Today, Inc. asked her to start Searcher Magazine, and in 2013 the magazine was merged with ONLINE to become Online Searcher. She co-edited it until May 2017, when illness forced her retirement. She checked out on Oct. 4, 2017, leaving us to carry on without her clear-eyed leadership, insights, and wit. She made a huge contribution to the information industry and will be greatly missed.

Leave a comment below if you’d like to share your own memories of bq. Comments will appear after approval by a moderator. 


Comments Add A Comment
Posted By Robert (Bob) Buntrock11/16/2017 10:48:40 AM

I remember attending a presentation (or panel chairing) by bq many years ago (my attendance information/library meetings has been very sparse the last few decades) but I don’t think we ever met in person. As near as I can tell from a quick glance at my chaotic files, my (in)famous presentation/paper on “Disintermediation” attracted her attention and I think a version of that in Searcher may have been the first writing I did for her as editor (1998). Subsequently, I’d get periodic phone calls from bq, often at weird times, with bq describing a research and writing opportunity, rambling into all sorts of other topics, and convincing me to do the work. Because I’m a chemist and have been heavily involved with Chemical Abstracts, those one-off articles were usually concentrated in those areas. I also contributed occasionally to the late Nancy Lambert’s column in Searcher, “A better mousetrap” on patent matters, and eventually took it over when Nancy bowed out.

A tough but fair taskmaster, bq was one of the best and most colorful editors and colleagues I’ve ever worked with. I won’t say rest in peace, bq, that would not be in your character. Instead, I hope WiFi and a computer have been provided. Auf Wiedersehen good friend.
Posted By Reva Basch11/15/2017 6:16:47 PM

BQ and I spent much of our respective careers pretending to be "frenemies," though that word didn't yet exist. We were friends as well as colleagues, and loved sparring with each other. She recruited me as scribe for one of the early SCOUG retreats, even though I lived in northern California. Those retreats became one of the highlights of my professional calendar. "Measuring the Quality of the Data," a report on the 4th annual retreat, appeared in the Oct 1990 issue of the journal then known as Database Searcher, and, in today's terminology, went viral. Suddenly I was an Information Quality Guru, and got to speak at conferences all over the world. It wouldn't have happened without Quint. She also lured me out of semi-retirement in 2004 to write an article for Searcher about Google's IPO (and, if I remember correctly, a followup the next year). She'd call to schmooze every few months even after I'd left the industry, but eventually we fell out of touch. I must admit I Googled her occasionally just to make sure she was still around and kicking. I'm sorry that she no longer is.

Reva Basch
Executive Editor, Super Searcher book series
Posted By Nick Tomaiuolo11/15/2017 2:47:54 PM

I am very sorry to learn of Barbara's passing. She was so funny, smart, and patient. Her passing marks the end of an era. Personally, she really knew how to bring the best out in people.
Posted By Bob Berkman11/15/2017 9:55:14 AM

I was so saddened and stunned when I heard that bq passed away, and also grateful that I had a chance to work so closely with her the last few years as co-editors of The Information Advisor's Guide to Internet Research.

I treasured our monthly editorial phone chats--not just for hearing her wise counsel on whatever "business" topics we discussed, but also for the opportunity to engage her brilliant mind and spirit on matters of politics, technology, the future of libraries, our culture and the other pressing issues of the day.

Your spirit lives on bq!
Posted By Patti (Brown) Finie11/13/2017 1:01:46 AM

I graduated UCLA's library school program at the beginning of the online revolution in 1978 and have always felt so fortunate that Barbara Quint was nearby to help us all define what that meant to us as librarians as well as what that meant to the people and organizations that we served. I spent most of my professional career as a vendor or with a publisher of online content and always carried with me the awareness that for all of this new technology and access to work, both the users (librarians as well as the end user) as well as the publisher or vendor had to be successful or the whole online world would collapse. We have seen over the years so many in the corporate world go under and that only limits the access to information Barbara was committed to making available. She was an early beacon and spokesperson for information access at a reasonable cost, and will remembered and missed for her unending dedication, relentless honesty and indelible humor.

Patti (Brown) Finie - LA Times Library, Dialog Information Services representative, Gale/Thomson/Cengage Learning representative
Posted By Ulla de Stricker11/7/2017 5:56:59 PM

As she shared her thoughts and let us benefit from her deep knowledge throughout the years, BQ was inspiring and uplifting as she wielded her insight with a sense of humor and a knack for cutting to the chase with creativity and grace. She was the embodiment of the best a superstar can be, a one-of-a-kind. Be well, Barbara. I hope you know how much we appreciate you and everything you gave us: Thank you for being you!
Posted By Karen Mahnk11/7/2017 5:05:50 PM

I've followed Barbara's articles over the years. Always timely, informative and with just the right amount of bite. The late nineties was the dawn of the current info world and, in a way Barbara was the Paul Revere.
Her passing marks the close of a tech era. She will be missed.

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