Sandy Berman Birthday Tribute

Celebrate Sandy by donatin' dough to anti-hunger organizations.


We are here to celebrate the 80th birthday of legendary librarian and cataloger Sandy Berman.

He has designated two organizations to which donations can be made in his name, if you’re so inclined. They are Emergency Foodshelf Network and OxFam America.

Would you please donate to one or both, and pretty please leave a birthday wish, anecdote or limerick in this blog’s comments for Sandy?


PS If you’re curious, this project was conceived by James Danky, who enlisted Laura Crossett & Jenna Freedman to effect it.


57 thoughts on “About

  1. Sandy’s a man with a mission
    To spike catalogs with sedition —
    That’s what they perceived,
    So they were relieved
    When they ousted him, now he goes fishin’

    (no doubt goes fishing for other fish to fry, other wrongs to right — all the best for your 80th birthday, Sandy!) –Mark Pendergrast

  2. Happy Birthday, my friend!
    you have been a role model to so many over the years. I love and admire you and wish I could reach out and give you a great big hug.

    Noha Ismail

  3. S. Berman’s a model to me
    From his work with the S R R T
    With his prescient insight
    He fights for what’s right
    Like dildo headings at L O C

    Thinking warm thoughts on your birthday Sandy. Much love.

  4. I’m such a fan, thanks for fighting the good fight!


    LC had some headings archaic
    And they sounded just too formulaic.
    Sandy wrote, “Well I’ll posit
    It’s not ‘water closet’
    Using ‘toilet’ is much more prosaic.”


    Though some thought his efforts misplaced,
    Sandy found many terms in bad taste.
    Since they may cause offense
    And they don’t make much sense.
    So let’s fix ’em up with great haste!

  5. From all the catalogers and reference librarians at the Library of Congress,


    Saul Schniderman, President, AFSCME Local 2910 (Professional Guild)

  6. I have taken inspiration from your work and passed it on to others. Thank you! Happy BD!

  7. I don’t do limericks but a came up with a haiku:

    Make information
    More accessible for all
    Radical idea

    Happy Birthday Sandy!!

  8. Happy Birthday and thank you for doing so much to push libraries toward the future!

  9. Sandy Berman, you inspired me to become a cataloger. Thank you for all your hard work!

  10. We should all celebrate Mr. Berman.
    Crown him and dress him in ermine.
    He’s a hero of mine,
    who didn’t “toe the line.”
    He kept all the right people squirmin’.

    Happy Birthday!

  11. Sandy, your work for the field of librarianship is legendary and you are amazing. Have a wonderful birthday.

  12. I didn’t realize I wanted to be a librarian until you inspired me. Thank you & happy birthday!!

  13. Your work is a vision for what librarians and librarianship can and should be. I hope that we follow your legacy well.

  14. Happy birthday, Sandy!

  15. Happy birthday. You are an inspiration to so many.

  16. Q. How many librarians does it take to change an electric lamp, incandescent?
    A. One: Sandy Berman.

    Thanks for the light bulb and common-sense cataloging. Happy birthday!

  17. We are still trying to match you (thanks so much). Many happy returns.

  18. Happy birthday and keep on fighting the good fight for accessible information!

  19. i found out about you and your work while in library school – so inspiring! best wishes on your birthday!!

    PS a related success that i heard about recently:
    “Librarians at Birzeit University told us of their success in petitioning the Library of Congress to adopt a call number for the First Intifada, recognizing it as a unique historical period even as it was still happening: DS128.4.**”

  20. Dear Mr. Berman,
    You independent thinking has been an inspiration to me and to countless librarians throughout the years. Yours was the first famous living librarian’s name I knew. May your influence live on! All happiness on this day, Margaret.

  21. It seems like only yesterday that you arrived in our fair city and took up the noble cause as Head Cataloger of HCL. A very healthy and happy 80th!

  22. Sanford Berman is one of many people who exemplify librarianship at its best, upholding its deepest, most socially significant values and inspiring others to do the same. Happy birthday, Sandy!

  23. Happy birthday to the world’s greates librarian – and one of the nicest guys in the world. I hope you live 80 more years!

  24. Sandy, We had many excellent years working together, although we did not agree on every issue, . I especially remember 2 difficult periods that we worked through together, the terrible problems with David Williams during the Israeli censorship campaign and the transfer of Counterpoise from SRRT to Charles Willett. Interestingly, our efforts to rebuke the Mubarak regime (when we were accused of focusing exclusively on israel) unfortunately resonate today.

  25. I teach your struggles, and the reasons for them, in my library-school classes. We need so many more librarians with your courage, and more librarians who know to honor it. Thank you, sir.

  26. Happy Birthday, Sandy. I only really comprehended your significance after I left HCL and so other subject headings.

  27. Happy Happy Birthday, Sandy! With best wishes for many more and great memories of cataloging adventures.

  28. What I learned from Sandy was to always ask, “What’s in a name?” His attention to subject headings – the politics of that seemingly benign but pernicious process – has made me forever aware of the importance of definition by naming. I have stopped myself many times to reflect – and to thank Sandy for making me aware of what’s in a name/subject heading. Mary Treacy

  29. With love, gratitude, and admiration, I wish you a birthday as remarkable as you are. Half of everything I know you taught me, and when I don’t know what I think about something, I just go ask YOU — you’re one of the clearest thinkers I’ve ever met! You rock, Sandyman!

  30. Sandy, I wish a Happy Birthday to you as a tireless campaigner for human dignity and freedom, wherever they are challenged. The support you have given to Cuba’s independent librarians is especially appreciated, coming as it does from a colleague professional with an independent mind, spirit and devotion to freedom.

  31. So when you came to talk in Pittsburgh at our Progressive Library Skillshare in 2007, you told us stories about requests for changes to LCSHs. The stories usually sounded like – Submitted request on such and such date. Rejected on such and such date. Appealed. Resubmitted. Rejected. Submitted. etc. Your resilience and your devotion to people and what they are and do being named in respectful ways is etched in my memory forever. Plus you’re fun to eat dinner with.

  32. You’re my dearest librarian avuncle
    Some think of you as more of a carbunkle
    I call you a mensch
    Others can’t stand your stench
    Your voice mail message are long
    They end with a “Sei gesund” that is strong

    Okay, that’s all I’ve got for rhyming couplets that do not a limerick make. But I had to at least try for a proper tribute to a person who is such a dedicated, fierce and creative crusader for unbiased metadata. You are also one of the most warm and generous people I’ve ever known. It is a joy and honor to be part of your world.

  33. You are my inspiration for librarianship. Have a wonderful birthday!

  34. From the editors and indexers of the Alternative Press Index


    Thanks for your many years of support.
    Chuck D’Adamo et al

  35. I’m grateful to have had the chance to know you personally during my time in Minnesota, to present with you at a conference, to benefit from your guidance, … and to trade mail (though I lag far behind on the reciprocal count).

    Few people so readily turn me on to new info and issues to think deeply about. Even here, Al Kagan’s comment above prompted a trip down the digital rabbit-hole:

    Me and mine wish you a very happy birthday and many more years of health, humor, and the rewarding advocacy work for which you’re known. We love you, Sandy!

  36. I would love to send you a poem or something personal, but I will have to keep it down to a simple Happy Birthday. You are in my heart.

  37. Happy birthday, and thank you for all you’ve done for librarianship–your tireless energy for advocacy and willingness to challenge “the way we’ve always done things” are a huge inspiration to me as a librarian just starting out in her career. Best wishes for a wonderful birthday! 🙂

  38. Happiest of birthdays! Soon after I started developing the library at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles someone pointed me to your books and I read all that were available. As this was a small museum library that was devoted to contemporary craft, folk art, and product design–all things that have the largest range of (mostly) controversial headings–I had actually started to create quite a few subject headings. It was fun and no one really cared at the museum–as long as they could find what they were looking for. Then a few years later when the museum closed (temporarily as it turned out) I had to find another home for the library and the archives (the library went to the L.A. County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the archives went to UCLA) and then I went to work at LACMA in their research library. They took the library–and my cataloging–but they were not happy with my cataloging and I ended up having to reverse a lot of what I had done. It was a very disheartening experience. But it led to my publishing several articles and editing a book on Art Museum Libraries and Librarianship (still the only one on the subject) that included the experiences of museum librarians at large and small museum libraries. Anyhow, I always feel encouraged by your writings and I was shocked that you were let go after you had obviously contributed so much to the Hennipin Library System–and the world of librarianship. I always thought your writings were just common sense–use the words in common usage as long as they are appropriate. I think that computerization, after some false starts, has improved the situation and has certainly improved access. You really did change the world in spite of Hennepin!! Here’s to your next 80 years!!

  39. Dear Sandy, Happy birthday and many thanks. Your inspiration goes on and on. And you’ve got a permanent spot in the history and heart of the American Indian Librarian Association, describing perfectly why we needed (and still need) an overhaul:

  40. Happy birthday, Sandy!

  41. Free the Berman catalog from it’s prison at the ALA archives in Urbana Illinois! Sandy’s work should be available to us all!

  42. Sandy: All the very best to you on your 8oth year on this earth getting into mischief , and rattling the foundations of those who infringe on the rights of others to not only live their lives, but their right to seek out facts and truth. You are what every librarian should aspire to be, and I am certain you have inspired many. The impact you have had on my life is impossible to put down in words, but I did just that – to my satisfaction -in my chapter, “The Berman Brigade” in Chris Dodge’s & Jan DeSirey’s EVERYHTING YOU
    ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SANDY BERMAN BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK (McFarland,1995). Rereading that chapter had me laughing all over again, but without a tear. Do all of us a great favor, and keep yourself in good health.
    You have been and continue to be a living treasure. I think the caption that ran with a photo I did of you with children in a library that was published in the STARS & STRIPES in 1966 said it all: “Gimmie a Book, Sandy!” Have a a great 80th – all year!.

  43. Dear Sandy. Happy 80th year of causing trouble and holding the library world to a higher human standard in both its description of information and its support for all in need. Shinjoung and I always open the mailbox with anticipation knowing that one of your “mail blogs” might be there. You’re a true library superhero!

  44. Hi, Sandy,

    I, along with all of the people from around the globe with whom you have been corresponding for decades, wish you a Happy Birthday, and all of the returns of the day… what’s left of today anyway.

    I congratulate you on reaching your 80th birthday. To paraphrase Red Smith who wrote–in re to death–everyone dies; it’s how you live that is the mark of a person. Genes, health, exercise, and probably good luck will get someone to 80 or more–I should be so fortunate.

    It is what you’ve done, at least since I met you in December 1972 (or was it January of 1973), that has been what makes you such a great person and human being. You haven’t wavered in your support (or opposition if more appropriate) for causes you cared about and espoused. You also are with one or two others possibly, the most–all subjects–knowledgeable person I’ve ever known. Encyclopedic comes to mind.

    I haven’t always agreed with you on everything, but I’ve never questioned the sincerity or depth of your beliefs and the thought and care that went into your forming them.

    You are a sensitive caring guy with a great sense of humor. The people who only know you from your writings may not have the appreciation of your wit because they only see your publications and letters.

    Having been your friend who has loved you these many years, I will attest to just how complete and decent a person you are.

    The Jews always invoke the word ‘mensch’ and probably this isn’t the first instance today of your being accused of embodying that word which translates badly into English as ‘a good person’.

    This is for a blog and I will not turn this into an essay. For those who wish to see what I’ve written at length about Sandy, buy his newest book for yourself and for your library, “Not in My Library! “Berman’s Bag” Columns from The U*N*A*B*A*S*H*E*D Librarian, 2000-2013″ for which I wrote an extensive foreword that documented at least in part our work and friendship together at the Hennepin County Library.

    I love you Sandy, always have, and always will.

    I hope we’ll both be around when my 80th birth date occurs so we both can enjoy it.

    Again, Happy Birthday, and enjoy and “shep naches” from all of the outpourings and expressions of love you most deservedly get this day.

  45. “Sentiment is an expression of gentleness and deep emotional feeling. It is the quality of superior people who possess hearts as well as minds. …Sentiment makes life more tolerable and joyous.” Edgar F. Magnin

    Dear Sandy, HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY! Best wishes for many more.

    Ever grateful for your sentiment for libraries, librarianship and me so that I am on your list that provides encouragement, information, and inspiration in each eagerly awaited mailing,

    Ginny Moore

  46. I’m reading Sandy’s oral history now :

    I met Sandy at a local conference in 1992 when I was still in library school or just hatched. I will never forget how warm he was to me, a total nobody/newbie. You remember these things long after the fact. I also clearly remember Sandy wearing his iconic black turtleneck and pendant necklace.

  47. Happy Birthday Sandy! We owe you so much for inspiration, information, encouragement, and connections to ideas and other people. You got me, Martha, my first book contract, which (of course) made everything different and gave me a voice.
    Love you forever!
    Martha Cornog and Timothy Perper

  48. With apologies to Mr. Lear, all I can say is, “Without Sandy, I am NOTHIN’.” He encouraged me from writing birth, when it was absolutely unfashionable, politically incorrect, and even slightly dangerous. You made my mom admire me, because she admired you. Could there be anything more?

  49. Sandy, I moved and lost my phone numbers in the process. Or, maybe, my dissolving synapses no longer remember where I put them. I now have a SHMATE between my ears. How do I find you? I assume you, unlike myself, have remained a principled Luddite and still don’t have e-mail. However, if under the theory that one should know one’s enemy……..

  50. Yet another birthday. Better than the alternative.
    Jeannie Kamins

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