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AIDS Memorial Keepsake



In the space of a decade, the Library lost nearly a dozen staff to AIDS. In the early years of the epidemic, illness and death often came with breathtaking speed, just a few years or even months after diagnosis. We were a community united by shock, grief and compassion as our friends and coworkers grew thin and struggled with painful and debilitating conditions. At first there were no medications to combat the virus itself, and people eventually died of various opportunistic diseases. It was a time of fear and anxiety as well. There were educational Early Birds sponsored by University Health Services to inform and reassure us-the virus could not be transmitted casually, and there were things we could do to help our friends. There were too many sad stories-sons who came out to their parents just in time to tell them that they were dying, the young dying before their lives could unfold, older men dying before they could reach that dreamed-of retirement.

The obituaries in this booklet speak for themselves, and they reveal a very different time and culture at the Library. There is warmth and a deep sense of community in these stories written by coworkers, a sense of the departed as complete people, but also a careful tracing and celebration of careers-reclasses, promotions, transfers, rotations-as people worked their way up the Library ladder, supported by an active staff development policy.

This booklet is a snapshot of library history during one particular decade. Any omissions from that time are inadvertent. There were many more library staff who lived with AIDS and died years or even decades later, often when they were no longer library employees. There are others still living with AIDS, and there were and are many survivors of that time who never became HIV positive. Some were gay rights and AIDS activists, others turned their concern and compassion to a more personal and private sphere. Many more library staff have contributed in many ways to supporting AIDS-related services. There is no way to acknowledge everyone, except to say thank you, everyone everywhere.

- Aija Kanbergs, Instructional Services, The Library,
University of California, Berkeley, June 2009

In Memoriam: CU News Library Obituaries From The AIDS Years 1986-1996, CU News, University of California, Berkeley

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