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Frederick G. Kilgour, Innovative Librarian, Dies at 92 - The New York Times Sections SEARCH U.S. Today’s Paper U.S. |Frederick G. Kilgour, Innovative Librarian, Dies at 92


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Frederick G. Kilgour, Innovative Librarian, Dies at 92 Aug. 2, 2006

Frederick G. Kilgour, a distinguished librarian who nearly 40 years ago transformed a consortium of Ohio libraries into what is now the largest library cooperative in the world, making the catalogs of thousands of libraries around the globe instantly accessible to far-flung patrons, died on Monday in Chapel Hill, N.C. He was 92.

The cause was a cerebral hemorrhage, said Bob Murphy, a spokesman for O.C.L.C. Online Computer Library Center, the nonprofit cooperative Mr. Kilgour founded in 1967.

At his death, Mr. Kilgour was a distinguished research professor emeritus at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he taught from 1990 until his retirement in 2004.

Mr. Kilgour’s cooperative is known to librarians everywhere simply as O.C.L.C. (The initials originally stood for Ohio College Library Center; the name was changed in 1981.) Based in Dublin, Ohio, the cooperative oversees a vast computerized database that comprises the catalogs of some 10,000 libraries around the world — more than a billion items — available to anyone who walks into a participating library and logs on to a computer terminal.

Starting later this month, the database will be available to anyone with an Internet connection. Known as WorldCat (www.worldcat.org), it includes the catalogs of many of the finest libraries in the world, among them the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library and those of Harvard, Columbia and Yale. By entering a ZIP code, people will be able to identify nearby libraries that own copies of the books, videotapes, CD’s and other materials they seek.

Although some WorldCat listings have been available in recent years through several search engines, among them Yahoo and Google, the new Web site will let people search the entire database directly.

Image Frederick G. KilgourCredit...Rich Skopin, 1990

Frederick Gridley Kilgour was born on Jan. 6, 1914, in Springfield, Mass. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Harvard in 1935 and afterward held several positions at the Harvard library. He also did graduate work in the history of science and published many scholarly papers on the subject.

During World War II, Mr. Kilgour was executive secretary and acting chairman of the Interdepartmental Committee for the Acquisition of Foreign Publications. Part of the Office of Strategic Services, the committee amassed a collection of publications that had been covertly microfilmed in enemy and enemy-occupied territories around the world.

A lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve, Mr. Kilgour was awarded the Legion of Merit for his intelligence work. From 1946 to 1948, he was deputy director of the Office of Intelligence Collection and Dissemination at the State Department.

Leaving government service, Mr. Kilgour joined Yale University, eventually becoming its associate librarian for research and development. In 1955, as the librarian of the Yale School of Medicine, he helped the university acquire one of the world’s most famous medical manuscripts, The Codex Paneth, an illuminated medical encyclopedia from the early 14th century.

In 1967, he was hired by the Ohio College Association to develop O.C.L.C., which pooled the catalogs of 54 academic libraries in the state. Introduced in 1971, O.C.L.C. was expanded to libraries outside Ohio in 1977. Mr. Kilgour was O.C.L.C.’s president and executive director from 1967 to 1980.

He is survived by his wife, the former Eleanor Margaret Beach, whom he married in 1940; three daughters, Marta Kilgour of the Bronx, Vajra Alison Kilgour of Manhattan and Meredith Kilgour Perdiew of North Edison, N.J.; two grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Mr. Kilgour wrote “The Evolution of the Book,” published by Oxford University Press in 1998. According to a beta version of WorldCat made available to The New York Times yesterday, the book can be found at more than 500 libraries throughout the United States, from the Anchorage Municipal Library in Alaska to the Yakima Valley Community College Library in Washington State.

If it is more convenient, copies may also be borrowed from the Erasmus University Medical Library in the Netherlands; the National Library Board of Singapore; and the National and University Library of Iceland, among other places.


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