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J Med Libr Assoc. Apr 2006; 94(2): 240–241.
PMCID: PMC1435843

Colin William (Bill) Fraser, AHIP, FMLA, 1925–2005

Jim Henderson, Life Sciences Librarian

Colin William (Bill) Fraser (known as Colin to many) was born in Matsqui, British Columbia, on October 29, 1925. He received his library degree in 1949 from McGill University in Montreal and began his career in public libraries, including a regional library system based in Prince George, British Columbia. He moved to Vancouver in 1961 to become director of the British Columbia Medical Library Service at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, serving there until his retirement in 1991. From this position, he exercised a significant influence in the Pacific Northwest and Canadian health library communities. He is equally remembered for his humanity and his friendly interest in everyone he met. He inspired many with his intellect, kindness, and wit.

Bill applied his public library network experience to the medical library service, which serves all doctors registered to practice in British Columbia. Hospital libraries were used as the local resource in each community. Each year, Bill would set forth across the province to meet with doctors and to evaluate collections and facilities [1]. The network of libraries, with hospital staff to keep them in order and doctors to chair local committees, worked well. Bill was practicing library outreach long before it was commonly in vogue [2]. Many hospitals acquired professional librarians as a result of his advocacy.

Through Bill's participation in a symposium in Seattle in 1964, his ideas contributed to the development of the Regional Medical Library Program in the United States (now the National Network of Libraries of Medicine). In his oral history, he noted the great interest in the British Columbia program shown by Martin Cummings, AHIP, FMLA, then director of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) [3].

His column in the BC Medical Journal and his participation in the continuing education and historical activities of the British Columbia Medical Association were effective in raising the profile of librarians in the medical community. For many years, Bill taught the health library course for the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia. His favorite class involved role-playing a meeting of a hospital library committee. What better way to convey the politics of hospital librarianship? The school awards an annual scholarship in his name.

An active member of the Medical Library Association (MLA), Bill regularly attended its annual meetings and participated in the Medical Society Libraries Section (chairing it twice) and the Relevant Issues Section. He was program chair for the Seattle meeting in 1977 and chair of the Pacific Northwest Chapter on three occasions. He was elected a Fellow in 1991.

In his home country, Bill was one of the founders of the Canadian Health Libraries Association/Association des bibliothèques de la santé du Canada when it was established in 1976 and remained one of its leaders. In his own province, his initiatives led to the formation of the Health Libraries Association of British Columbia in 1978. He was elected to honorary life membership in both of these groups and the British Columbia Library Association.

In retirement, Bill kept busy, and his smile grew with more time for travel, theater, opera, and art. He continued work with the British Columbia Schizophrenia Society and in the Unitarian Church. In 1995, he moved to Victoria with his cats. In remembering Bill, he would hope we would dance—he was a superb dancer. He would wish we think of his family. He always asked about the families of others and shared his joy in his children and grandchildren. Bill passed away peacefully on October 12, 2005.

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  • Fraser CW. Recent and recommended medical texts for hospital libraries. Annual 1962–1991.
  • Dick J, Harrison WE, Fraser CW, and Williams DH. The Medical Library Service of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC. CMAJ. 1963.  Apr 6; 88:741–4. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • McKenzie D, Murray K. Transcript of oral history with Colin William Fraser. 19 Jun 1999, Victoria, BC, and 17 Oct 1997, Portland, OR. (Summary available at: <http://www.mlanet.org/about/history/c_fraser.html>. [cited 27 Oct 2005].).

Articles from Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA are provided here courtesy of Medical Library Association
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