University Library News

In Memoriam: Marjan Merala

December 20, 2005:

Marjan Merala, LDO VET, MS (Library Science)
1922-2005

Those who knew him will be saddened to learn that Marjan Merala passed away on December 2, 2005. He was a founding member of the Veterinary Medical Library Section and a leader in veterinary librarianship.

Marjan earned his library degree from the University of Illinois and worked briefly at the John Crerar Library in Chicago. In 1959 he moved to Davis to become the founding librarian at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and where he spent the rest of his career. Under his direction, the library grew from a small branch library into the UC Davis Carlson Health Sciences Library, one of the few libraries that serve both a veterinary and a medical school. Under Marjan's leadership the library grew to become a comprehensive health sciences library, with a clinical medical branch at the UC Davis Medical Center campus in Sacramento; his exceptional collection development acumen was reflected in a body of health sciences resources that the faculty in the schools of medicine and veterinary medicine regard as among the finest in the nation and the world. The unique strengths he brought to his career included degrees in veterinary medicine from the University of Madrid and legal training at the University of Ljubljana. He was also fluent in nine languages, which allowed him to translate many medical research articles into English for the UC Davis faculty. He was Associate University Librarian for the Health Sciences at the time of his retirement in 1986.

As one of the early veterinary librarians who worked for the establishment of VMLS, the Section's history notes that he was "one of the academic librarians to attend the Medical Library Association meeting in Kansas City in 1973 and participated in the first 'unofficial group' breakfast of veterinary librarians at that meeting." He served as Section chair in 1980/81. In 1984, Marjan compiled the first "Directory of Information Sources" in the AVMA Directory. He coordinated annual updates until 1986 when he retired and the updates became the responsibility of the Section's Public Relations Committee.

A consummate bibliographer, Marjan contributed the Veterinary Medicine Section to the classic reference work, Guide to Sources for Agriculture and Biological Resources, edited by J. Richard Blanchard and Lois Farrell (Berkeley, University of California, 1981). He established one of the first library instruction courses in veterinary medical resources. It was a core course in the Masters of Preventive Medicine curriculum at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine for many years. He was also a supportive colleague and mentor to many librarians. He had a strong service ethos that he imparted to his staff for the benefit of the library's clientele. In addition, he consulted in the design of numerous medical libraries, including Gainesville, FL and Vera Cruz, Mexico. He continued to get requests for consultation from the World Health Organization after his retirement.

Marjan served as a Resource Librarian in the Pacific Southwest Regional Medical Library and supported regional medical activities for greater northern California. Locally, Marjan was active in the Northern California and Nevada Medical Library Group, where he served as chair in 1969/70. He was named an Honorary Member after his retirement.

Marjan's road to librarianship was quite unique. Born and educated in Slovenia, he began legal studies which were interrupted by the occupiers who closed the school in 1943. He became a part of the resistance protecting the civilian populace from the Communist Partisans as well as the occupiers. After the war, he fled to Spain where he studied veterinary medicine, earning his degree in 1951. He then immigrated to the United States where he earned his library degree and met his wife, Marija, also a Slovenian.

While Marjan had a significant and successful career as a veterinary librarian, his life focus was his family. He and Marija raised five children. He enjoyed the outdoors and the family took many camping and skiing trips together. Marjan was a Cub Scout leader and he was noted for leading many 50-mile hikes for his sons' Boy Scout troop. I can attest to the enthusiastic family outings. When I first came to Davis, they scooped me up for a visit to the Empire Mine in the California Gold Country. On our way back to Davis, we stopped to see the state Capitol in Sacramento, when they learned that I (a native Californian) had never been there.

Marjan Merala was a dedicated colleague and mentor. His legacy will continue through the resources and services that became the foundation of the UC Davis health sciences libraries. The Marjan and Marija Merala Endowment Fund in support of the health sciences libraries collections was established in 2000 to honor the Meralas. I was privileged to have worked with Marjan Merala before his retirement. It has been an honor and a challenge to build on the rich legacy he established.

Jo Anne Boorkman
Head, Carlson Health Sciences Library

 

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