During an awards banquet Feb. 5 at the 2010 iConference at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Syracuse iSchool Dean Elizabeth D. Liddy presented the first ever Raymond F. von Dran Award to Toni Carbo.

Carbo, a professor at the College of Information Science and Technology (iSchool) Center for Graduate Studies at Drexel University, was one of the original “gang of three” deans who first worked together to explore and define the emerging field of information. As dean of University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences, she proposed the regular meeting of deans of information schools in 1988 and then resurrected the group again in the late 1990s after attention started to wane.

“Toni again called together the gang and insisted that they get serious about defining and explaining the
field of information,” Liddy said. “She exerted her leadership and the group grew to 10 schools and then 12 until the term ‘gang’ was no longer an appropriate title and the iSchool caucus was introduced. So now with 27 iSchools represented, we’re jointly presenting this award.”

Liddy presented the plaque, which reads:

“The 2010 Raymond von Dran Award presented to Toni Carbo:

For her pioneering initiative and enduring support of the iSchool Caucus,

From her initial vision and commitment to excellence,

Followed by continuing leadership of a fledgling field,

That she carried forth, as Ray did, with

Humor, kindness, collaborative spirit, mentoring,

And high standards for herself and others.”

The award is given in honor of Raymond F. von Dran, who served as dean for a total of 24 years at three different library and information science schools, including the Syracuse University School of Information Studies from 1995 to 2007. A founding member of the I-Schools Group (now the iCaucus)—an international consortium of academic institutions focused on the relationship between information and people—von Dran was among a core group of visionaries who helped define the newly emerging academic field of information studies, examining how information, in all its forms, expands human capabilities. The iSchool deans present the $5,000 award to recognize leadership in the field of information, especially those individuals who share some of Ray’s personal qualities.

A tearful Carbo accepted the award, recalling her friendship with Ray von Dran and the key moments in her own life that led her to a career in the information field. “To be the first recipient of the award that honors Ray is so very special to me,” she said. “We just had an idea to bring a few people together and look what it has turned into! Not because of what I did, but because of what all
of you have done.”

She described the goals of the original group:

  • Be inclusive, rather than exclusive, but also not compete with sister organizations. The goal would be to wor
    k collaboratively.
  • Value qualitative research as much as quantitative research, and recognize and include all types of research< /li>
  • Focus not only on the what and how questions, but also the why questions
  • Think about values, culture, and ethical issues

She also stressed the importance of focusing on people, content, and technologies. “We are not T schools,” she said/ “We are iSchools. I hope you remember that.”

She concluded by recalling her last conversation with Ray, who died unexpectedly in July 2007 after stepping down as dean of the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. The two former deans discussed “life after deaning” and the possibility of forming a special interest group of former iSchool deans who could act as mentors to new deans.

“Very sadly, ray never got to experience that life after deaning,” said Carbo. “But I know that Ray’s spirit is with us today, and that if we keep focusing on his wonderful sense of humor and his high vision and work with these talented young people here today that we will shape the future of the information field the way he’d want it to be shaped.”