Q&A with Joe Wible, retiring after 33 years with Stanford Libraries

Aug. 16, 2015, 11:33 p.m.
John Wible. (Courtesy of Dan Richards)
Joe Wible. (Courtesy of Dan Richards)

After 33 years with the Stanford Libraries, Joe Wible, head librarian and bibliographer at the Hopkins Marine Station’s Harold A. Miller Library, will be retiring on Sept. 15.

Wible started at the Lane Medical Library in 1982 and also worked in the Falconer and Swain libraries in the late 1980s. In 1993, he took his position at Hopkins’ Miller Library, and during his time with the libraries, he also helped with field studies in marine biology.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): What have Stanford’s libraries offered you over the past 33 years?

Joe Wible (JW): I always have been interested in learning science ­– that’s why I have a Ph.D. in marine biology. The job in Hopkins was a great way to mix my marine science interests with my library interests. I’ve always mixed the two. When I was a student in biology, I was working in the library, and when I was getting my library degree, I was doing science – biology research and teaching. It has always been a mix of the two, which has been really nice.

TSD: Can you describe how you saw yourself when you arrived at Stanford and how you see yourself now that you are leaving?

JW: What I do has changed dramatically over time. When I was first hired, at the Lane Medical Library, back in the day, all of the online searching was mediated by librarians. Instead of having a license to the database, you paid as the meter ticked down time. It would charge by how long you were online. And so you didn’t want physicians doing their own searching, because they would start a search and would go away, and the meter would keep ticking the money down because they would get distracted. That’s why having somebody who knew how to do searching efficiently was cost-effective.

At the biology library, I arranged for a site license [to the BIOSIS database] for all of Stanford. People could do their own searching – be as inefficient as they wanted to be, and it didn’t matter. That was one of the dramatic changes.

The other is electronic access to journals. When I first came down [to Hopkins Marine Station], we had duplicated a lot of journals, but because of the distance from here and main campus, I was getting around 1,500 requests for articles per year that we didn’t have down here. Now there are less than 100 [requests] that we get per year. So much is online now.

TSD: You’ve digitized a lot of Hopkins’ Miller Library, and students rely on you for resources. What was it like working with Stanford students?

JW: One of the fun things of the job has been helping students get what they need to complete their degrees or to graduate. I always enjoy reading the acknowledgments on their dissertations. To hear what they say about me is always fun.

TSD: Your thoughts on retirement?

JW: I have mixed feelings about leaving. I love what I’ve been doing, but I’ve been doing it a while, and I don’t want to wait until I’m not doing a good job. I also have a lot I want to do while still I’m young and healthy. I spent time in the last two summers on Palmyra [Atoll] helping with a research project, and potentially in October after I retire, I expect that I’m likely to go back for three weeks to finish that project.

The week after I get back from that I’ll be participating in the Channel Islands Research Program diving on Catalina Island at [the University of Southern California’s] marine lab. Fiorenza Micheli, one of the [Stanford] faculty, may be able to use me in diving projects off the Baja Coast. I’m hoping to continue helping with research projects and diving – hopefully around the world.

I do photography, terrestrial and underwater. I enjoy that. I’ll do a lot of visiting with family. I have four sisters, and I will see all four of them at some point. I’m planning a cross-country drive with my oldest sister in the following fall [2016].

It’s amazing that I’ve been at Stanford for this long. The job’s always been fun and varied over time. I’ve moved from various divisions, taken on different roles – and not just because I changed jobs within Stanford. Even within same job, the library is constantly changing. Technology is changing.


An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Wible’s retirement date. The Daily regrets this error.

Contact Ruiwen Adele Shen at shen.adele ‘at’ gmail.com.

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