In Remembrance: Kathy Brunjes

November 8, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Posted in General News | 2 Comments

Members of NAHSL lost a wonderful colleague, leader, and friend last week when Kathy Brunjes passed away from cancer. Kathy was the Chair of NAHSL when I first became a member in 2005. Being new to the profession and the organization, she stood out in my mind as she presided over the annual business meeting. When you’re just getting started in your career, those who hold leadership positions are often ones you look to and say, “Wow! I wonder if I might ever be like that.”

When it was announced at our recent Annual Meeting in Woodstock that Kathy had entered hospice – an announcement that came not very long before the gavel was passed to me and I became the new Chair – I thought of this connection and felt both humbled and proud to follow her in this role. When I learned, last Friday, that she had died, my heart went out to her family and her friends and all of the lives she touched through her work. I asked several of these friends and colleagues if they would offer some words about Kathy to share with the NAHSL membership here. What follows are their contributions. ~ Sally Gore, NAHSL Chair

Kathy Brunjes (1953-2012): an Inspiration to Us All

The NAHSL Community has lost a great library champion in Kathy Brunjes. For the 13 years I have known her, I have admired her boundless energy in promotion of libraries and excellence in knowledge services through her work in NAHSL and HSLIC. She served on the HSLIC board in various capacities including chair, always ready to do what needed to be done as well as mentor others.

In NAHSL, she served on the board, scholarship committee, education committee, and as NAHSL Conference Chair in 2004. Kathy was also active in the Central Maine Library District and was appointed to the Maine Library Commission.

Kathy was actually my predecessor at Stephens Memorial Hospital where she had worked 19 years before taking the Library Director’s position at Central Maine Medical Center in 1999. I remember cleaning out her old office and thinking that she had never thrown anything away for all those 19 years! Her office space may have been messy but she was always very organized at meetings and working on various projects.

Kathy was a true leader and committed to demonstrating the value of library services. Driving her home from the NAHSL Conference last year, she spent an hour of the trip on her phone calling in to a budget meeting at her institution to defend her library budget and prevent deep cuts that were happening hospital-wide at that time.

We shared a love of costume jewelry and would often sneak out of the NAHSL Conference on Monday afternoon to fit in some shopping. We also shared a bit of an acerbic sense of humor and always sat together during the long NAHSL business meetings on Tuesday mornings so we could joke around during the long reports.

I think the greatest tribute we could give Kathy is to emulate her dedication to her profession, colleagues, and clients. She was always ready to take on a new project or help out on a committee or board. Let’s keep Kathy’s spirit alive by giving more of our time and energy serving the organizations and profession she was so committed to. To me, she has been a role model, a mentor, and a friend. She is proof that one person can make a difference and the library communities in Maine and New England were made stronger with Kathy as a member.

Deborah Clark, HSLIC Chair

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Kathy Brunjes has been an active and involved member of HSLIC since she joined the organization nearly 20 years ago. Her interest in librarianship was so strong that she pushed herself to finish her undergraduate degree and go on to a masters in library science, all while working at her job(s) at Stephens Memorial Hospital and serving in a succession of positions on the HSLIC board. She has ably filled many positions in HSLIC, including NAHSL Representative, Secretary, Vice-Chair and Resource Sharing, Chair, and Newsletter Editor. Meanwhile, on the NAHSL board, she moved from HSLIC rep to Secretary to Conference Chair-Elect, Conference Chair and NAHSL Chair-Elect, and is currently serving as Chairman of the NAHSL Board. All this while taking on a challenging new position at CMMC, a much larger library, and incidentally, competing as a horsewoman at the national and international level! Kathy is a model of industry, spirit, energy, and professionalism for all of us, and is a most worthy recipient of the Cairns Award.

(From the text of Kathy’s 2005 Cairns Award)

But in addition to all this, Kathy was such a sparkplug in our organization  –  gorgeous, funny, always ready to get involved and help out with a mixture of enthusiasm and professionalism.  And she combined the demands of her active library life with endurance riding on the national and international level, most recently adding the role of active grandma to her busy life.  It makes me tired just thinking about it.

There are many funny stories about Kathy.  When my son was a student at the University of Southern Maine, he was elected as one of two student representatives to the Sociology Dept. faculty.  He came home one weekend and told me, wide-eyed, about the other student rep:  “You should see her Mom, she’s really amazing, and she’s a librarian!.”  He told me that when he tried to ask her out she said, “Don’t be silly, I’m almost old enough to be your mother.  In fact, I KNOW your mother.”  It could only be Kathy.

Her friends in HSLIC willl really, really miss her.

~ Patty Kahn, Niles Perkins Health Science Library, Rockport, Maine

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Kathy was a creative contributor to our regional programs. Her work with the Samali population was of particular interest to the National Library of Medicine. Her presentation to the NLM mid-year review Committee was a highlight of the day. She demonstrated how medical librarians can really make a difference. I will never forget her ongoing support for us as we continue to serve as the region’s medical library.

~ Elaine Martin, Director, Lamar Soutter Library and NNLM, NER, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Kathy Brunjes was active in RML activities, supporting the National Network and making her library an active part of the hospital’s outreach. Kathy was active in the New England Region’s Regional Advisory Council throughout the past ten years. Kathy was active in subcommittees like Resource Sharing and Consumer Health Advisory Board.  Kathy secured funding and brought hospital departments together to develop videos and other translated material to welcome the Somali community of Lewiston to the community health services of Central Maine Medical Center.  Nationally, Kathy was asked and served on review committees for RML mid-contract site visits and RML contract proposal reviews.

~ Javier Crespo, former Associate Director, NNLM, NER

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  1. I was on the NAHSL Board along with Kathy for several years, and always looked forward to seeing her and hearing her input. She was funny, smart, articulate, and a fierce advocate for librarians. Her competitive spirit and ability to cut to the chase gave a spark to everything she participated in. NAHSL and the rest of her world will miss her enormously. We can all aspire to bringing that spark to our own careers and lives. Thank you Kathy for being such an inspiration to so many people. Evelyn Morgen, Director, UConn Health Center Library

  2. Kathy invited the NN/LM NER to exhibit with her at a health fair at the mall in Lewiston, ME. I spent the day exhibiting with Kathy. It was a pleasure to get to know her and spend the day with her. Kathy’s friendly nature endeared all to her. Her NN/LM NER funded video to help Somali’s access her hospital and library won a Freddie award. On my visits to HSLIC meetings, I was always impressed with her updates and her collaborations with regional and national organizations. She was a kind, thoughtful, insightful and gracious person. Kathy was a true ambassador for the library profession.

    -Michelle Eberle, NN/LM NER


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