Peter McCracken selected as 2012 SILS Distinguished Alumnus

Release date: 

April 18, 2012

Peter McCrackenPeter McCracken (MSLS ‘95), co-founder and publisher of ShipIndex.org and co-founder of Serials Solutions, Inc., has been selected as a 2012 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science (SILS) distinguished alumnus. McCracken, who will receive the award during the SILSSpring commencement ceremony on May 13th, was nominated by his fellow alumni and selected for the award by the Executive Board of the SILS Alumni Association (SILSAA).

“After seeing a need for tools to effectively manage online collections, McCracken sought to meet this need for the profession, not just for his own library,” said one of his nominators. “Twelve years after he co-founded Serials Solutions, McCracken's work impacts the way in which libraries provide access to information on a daily basis. His service to the profession, as well as to the constituents that the profession serves, makes him an ideal candidate for the Distinguished Alumni Award.”

Established in 1981, the Distinguished Alumni Award is presented twice each year during the spring and fall commencement ceremonies by SILSAA. The award recognizes alumni who have demonstrated outstanding professional library or information science achievements at national, state or local levels or who have provided outstanding service to SILS or its Alumni Association.

"I'm thrilled and honored to be named SILS Distinguished Alumnus for 2012,” said McCracken. “My two years in SILS laid the groundwork for my entire professional career so far, from learning the intricacies of reference services, to creating a mock information services company through courses with Dr. Daniel. Reference classes taught me how to assist students and faculty at East Carolina University and the University of Washington. Web development classes showed me how to apply my interest in maritime history to make it available to all, via the then-new World Wide Web. And I learned just enough cataloging to make me dangerous when it came to working with real catalogers and serials librarians through Serials Solutions. All of these experiences, combined, prepared me to develop the skills and confidence to create ShipIndex.org, which is the service that matters most to me. Sharing maritime history with the world is what I want most to do, and SILS made that possible."

Since his time at SILS, McCracken has more than improved the management of electronic serials content and created automated services to help access serials online. He recognized early in his career as a reference librarian at East Carolina University and later at University of Washington that improving database software and shared data programs would help libraries to better manage online journal collections, a format that was growing rapidly with advances in technology. The customized A-to-Z list of journals a library could access electronically that from this idea was a foundation for several other products, including an electronic resources access and management system, a link resolver and more.
 
Featured on the cover of the August 2001 issue of Library Journal as the “Librarian as Entrepreneur,” McCracken was highlighted for co-founding Seattle-based Serials Solutions in 2000, where he directed principal work of the library services company with a worldwide client base, including providing the original idea and framework for tracking full-text journals available through database aggregators to libraries in customized reports. With expertise gained from Serials Solutions, he served as co-chair of the joint UKSG/NISO Knowledge Bases and Related Tools Working Group project which helped define useful methods for transferring accurate metadata about electronic resources. 

Last year, McCracken was recognized with the Ulrich's Serials Librarianship Award for his contributions to serials librarianship by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, a division of the American Library Association. He was cited for his “leadership, diligence and dedication to improving tools and methods to make digital information databases more accessible and understandable for librarians and users.”

"Peter McCracken has made an invaluable impact on the accessibility and discoverability of library collections," said Kate Silton (MSLS '06), secretary of SILSAA and Electronic Resources Librarian at the F.D. Bluford Library at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. "The work that I do would not be possible without the tools that he developed or his advocacy for standards and best practices."

With a long-standing interest in maritime history, McCracken has most recently co-founded ShipIndex.org, a Web site that helps people do research on vessels. It tells genealogists and historians which books, magazines, Web sites, and more, mention the ships they want to know more about. Over 140,000 citations are freely available, and the premium database, available by subscription to individuals and institutions, contains 2.3 million citations and is always growing.

McCracken began his education in maritime studies at the semester-long Williams College/Mystic Seaport Program in American Maritime Studies, while a student at Oberlin College. While attending SILS, he completed a ten week internship in the library at the Maine Maritime Museum, in Bath, Maine. After receiving his MSLS at SILS, he went on to East Carolina University where he received a Master’s degree in Maritime History. Since 2003, he has written a column for Sea History magazine, combining his interests in maritime history and library science.  In his last year at SILS, he created a Web site for "Maritime History on the Internet," which McCracken says is what eventually led to the creation of ShipIndex.org.

McCracken serves on the Tompkins County Public Library Board of Trustees and the Alternatives Federal Credit Union Board of Directors, both of which are located in Ithaca, NY, near where he lives. He is also on the board of the Oberlin College Friends of the Library, the University of Washington iSchool’s Founding Board, and is a former member of the SILS Board of Visitors.

In addition to the SILS Distinguished Alumnus Award, McCracken was presented with another award from SILSAA, the Outstanding Service to the School Award which he received during his commencement in 1995. He is a member of Beta Phi Mu, International Library and Information Science Honor Society; the recipient of last year’s Ulrich's Serials Librarianship Award; the 2009 Tompkins County 40 Under 40 Award; a member of the Phi Alpha Theta, History Honor Society; and was honored with the Roy N. Lokken Award in Early American History; and the Adm. Ernest M. Eller Prize in Modern Naval History.