13 October 2009

Eileen Ryan

Eileen Ryan, Head of Technical Services at the University of Sheffield Library, died on 1 December 2008 at the age of 59.

Eileen was born and grew up in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. She took an external degree from the University of London at Birmingham College of Commerce, and was an MA student at the Department of Information Studies at the University of Sheffield. She worked at the University Libraries of Hull and York before coming back to Sheffield in 1978 as Head of Acquisitions, later becoming Head of Technical Services, leading a team of more than 30 staff.

The contribution Eileen made to the University Library at Sheffield was immense. The professionalism and commitment with which she approached her work won the respect not only of her colleagues in the library, but of those working in similar areas in the wider academic library community and in the academic book supply business. She was Secretary to the Yorkshire Branch of the Library Association for many years, and was active in its University, College & Research (UC&R) section.

Eileen’s generosity and patience, coupled with a terrifying ability to handle huge amounts of detail while contributing to wider strategy and remaining completely unflappable, were her hallmarks. She was a highly effective manager, and a patient mentor to new staff. While espousing the traditional values of high quality, hard work and accuracy, she was also keen to embrace innovation, ensuring that Sheffield was, for example, one of the first academic libraries to implement electronic data interchange (EDI) with suppliers.

Outside work, she maintained contact with a wide circle of friends, and regaled them with anecdotes from her travels, often illustrated by images that her considerable talent for photography made more than mere snaps. A trip to South Africa was in the planning when she became ill in the late summer of 2008.

The diagnosis of an aggressive brain tumour in August was followed by a bleak prognosis that itself proved optimistic. To say that Eileen bore this news, and the subsequent illness, with great courage and dignity seems quite inadequate. Her sense of humour remained to the end, and her many visitors came away inspired and uplifted, as well as saddened by the inevitable deterioration in her condition.

On 19 December more than 100 colleagues past and present, including suppliers from the UK and overseas, joined Eileen’s friends and family in the University of Sheffield’s Firth Hall in a service of thanksgiving for her life, following a private family funeral.

Eileen’s sense of fun, warm smile and professional integrity will continue to be missed by her colleagues here.

Martin Lewis and colleagues
The University of Sheffield

This obituary was originally published in Library & Information Update, June 2009, p. 34, and is reproduced with permission.