In Memoriam: John Peters, 1938-2014

We are saddened to learn of the death of John A. Peters, former director of the Wisconsin Historical Society Government Documents Department.  John passed away in his sleep on Saturday, August 23.  John, aka Mr. Peters, worked at the Historical Society Library from 1965 until his retirement in the mid 1990’s and thereafter as a volunteer.  He expertly and thoughtfully led the Government Documents Department during his tenure.  John was instrumental in pioneering the concept of Regional Depository Libraries.  John mentored countless library students in the intricacies of government information.

In 1997 John received the Bernardine Abbott Hoduski Founders Award from the American Library Association’s Government Documents Round Table (GODORT).  You can read a brief tribute to him on the occasion of this award here.  

There will be no memorial service, John will be cremated and buried in Seattle.

Full obituary

We extend our condolences to John’s family and friends and to his colleagues at the Wisconsin Historical Society Library.

Thanks to Nancy Mulhern and Margaret Booth for their assistance with this post.

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One thought on “In Memoriam: John Peters, 1938-2014

  1. Tributes to John Peters from UW-Madison and Historical Society Colleagues

    John Peters was a wonderful man and I enjoyed working with him in the government documents dept. when I was a student. He was kind, funny and generous and it was in large part because of him that my first job as a librarian was as a government document librarian. He inspired me. I also recall when he would come to class to teach a section in gov. docs and how he made a dry topic funny and interesting and worth the effort to understand.

    I am sure he has left behind countess other students just as grateful as I am to have known him.
    –Genevieve Zook, UW Law Library

    Around the Society last week, people were recalling the two signs he used to bring out to the reference desk at different points in his career: “I am here to be bothered” and “There are no stupid questions.” John embodied what libraries are for, and understood the crucial role that access to government information plays in a democracy. And he was charming, funny, and irreverent, too.
    –Michael Edmonds, Deputy Director, Library-Archives Division, Wisconsin Historical Society

    I know that even after he retired and was a volunteer, he was an invaluable source of institutional memory for everyone in the documents program.
    –Margaret Booth, Government Documents Assistant, UW Law Library

    He was a gentleman of the old school quiet and retiring but with a wicked send of humor and a vast knowledge of documents. Hardly a day passes that I don’t see his writing or J.A.P. stamp on shelflist cards. I have told the retro catalogers if you see the J.A.P. rest assured the information is accurate.
    –Nancy Mulhern, Government Publications Librarian, Library/Archives, Wisconsin Historical Society

    I was one of the countless library school students whose education was made richer by John Peters and I’m honored to have known John as a mentor and a colleague and a friend.

    When John retired, about the only thing that changed in what he did was that he started coming in around 7:30 every morning rather than at 6:00 as he’d done when he was “working.”
    –Jonathan Cooper, Metadata Librarian, Library-Archives Division, Wisconsin Historical Society

    Without John, I would have floundered teaching government information. He lectured regularly to the class when I taught it and also helped my students (and me) sort out assignments and keep up with new developments. His work was influential throughout the depository library system, not just in Wisconsin.
    –Louise Robbins, Director and Professor Emerita, UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies

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