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Janet Eileen Russell ’68

A picture of Janet Russell

Janet Eileen Russell ’68, October 8, 2012, in Walnut Creek, California. Nearing the end of her life, Janet reflected on her early years: “As a child, she was happiest exploring the library and continued her quest to know everything at Reed College. She became a librarian so that she could help others find answers to their questions. Librarians bring order out of chaos, she explained, like God.” Howard Kaplan ’68, her classmate and friend, wrote the following memorial for her: After receiving her BA in American Studies in 1968, Janet attended graduate school at the University of Chicago, where she received master’s degrees in library science and teaching. For the next two decades, she worked in the Chicago area as a librarian, employed first by the public library system and later by a private library consulting service. In 1989, she entered a second but related career as a professional indexer. The high point of her work in that role occurred in 2004, when she received the Wilson Award Commendation for indexing the latest revision of Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, a project for which her background as a working librarian was of great importance. She was for many years a docent at the Oriental Institute in Chicago, where she developed her interest in ancient Egypt. She also spun wool and occasionally wove or crocheted it, but her primary woolcraft was knitting, for which she developed a special font for incorporating text into knitwear without violating the principles of structurally sound multicolor designs (www.thrinberry-frog.com/WinRKA). Janet had serious health problems for the latter half of her life, arising from congenital kidney disease that was only partially relieved by two separate transplants. She moved back from cold Chicago to warmer Concord to be closer to her family as her health worsened. Eventually, she became too ill to undergo further transplantation, and she died in comfort care. Perhaps unusually for a Reedie of her generation, she remained a practicing Catholic for her entire life, expressing her faith in the afterlife in the self-composed obituary written to assist her family in preparing for her death. In that piece, she also asked to be remembered as a supporter of the Bill of Rights, as a cat lover, and as a performer of Tai Chi postures. Survivors include two brothers and a sister. Janet’s family has dedicated a website to Janet, www.indexingmatters.com.

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2013

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