Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jim Kopp

As some of you may have heard, my boss at Lewis & Clark, Jim Kopp died August 5th after a struggle with a rare and complex medical condition. Jim was a big part of my life over the last decade, bringing me over to Portland from Bend to work at Lewis & Clark in 2001. As a boss and mentor, he gave me the support, freedom, and encouragement to grow in my career.

One of a now nearly extinct breed of librarian/scholars, Jim had a restless sort of ambition and an appetite for new challenges. He worked at the libraries of Columbia, Washington State, University of Portland, and the NLM; he was a VP at a startup library automation company, a head of a library consortium, and finally, a liberal arts college library director. A librarian, technologist, historian, and book collector, Jim's eclecticism in a way suited him perfectly for the liberal arts. He was never totally content where he was, however, and perhaps the utopian in him always kept his eyes open for greener pastures.

Like me, Jim cut his teeth in the library world as a technologist. He was of an earlier generation of systems librarians than me and by the time he brought me on staff this aspect of his career was done. What he retained from it was an ability to recognized innovative work and find ways of supporting it, and Jim did this in many areas of the library including those affiliated with technology.

As a manager, Jim understood something that I'm just coming to understand: your top priority to create the support system needed for your employees to perform in their positions. Jim was a hands off manager but he made sure that everyone on his team had the resources needed to do their jobs. He cared about his employees as people and understood that doing so was not only right, it also made for a stronger organization. Watzek's excellence owes much to Jim's wisdom here.

If you worked with Jim, you got to know his affection for writing. He favored longish memoranda written in a learned sort of prose. Even when writing something like a performance evaluation, Jim wrote elegantly and played with words. He was also a smart ass and often had fun lampooning those absurd obstacles and circumstances that would sometimes frustrate our work at Watzek.

I still can't believe Jim is gone. On any given day, I feel like I'll turn the corner in the library and see him or that an email will come through from him somewhere in the ether. Though he lived a full, rich life, I believe that he still had much work left to do in this world.

I will miss him.


Doug Erickson said...

This is a nice tribute that captures the "essence" of Jim, as a man, educator, friend, boss, father and friend. I too miss him every day. I will never forget him, or his many quiet suggestions. He will live on and become more legendary as time passes....

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

人不能像動物一樣活著,而應該追求知識和美德................. ................................................

Dave Bilyeu said...

It was a fine celebration of Jim's life on Saturday - a remarkably positive and upbeat event. But then he was remarkable and it's wonderful the event lived up to his life and memory.

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