Barbara and Bob Martin make generous commitment to establish Distinguished Professorship in Librarianship at SILS

May 31, 2017

Drs. Barbara and Robert “Bob” Martin (PhD ’88) have made a commitment to establish the Honorable Robert S. Martin Distinguished Professorship in Librarianship at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS). The School celebrated the Martins’ generosity earlier this spring at a formal dinner in Manning Hall that included remarks from UNC President Margaret Spellings and a special message from former First Lady Laura Bush.

Bob Martin (PhD '88) in the SILS Library in March.
Photo by Jon Gardiner, UNC-Chapel Hill

“Bob and Barbara are thought leaders with a clear focus that connects their scholarly work, professional practice, volunteer service, and philanthropic giving,” said SILS Dean Gary Marchionini. “Their commitment is a critical component in the capital campaign that SILS and UNC will officially launch this fall. The campaign will enable Carolina to achieve its strategic vision and become the model for the great global public research university of the 21st century.”

Endowed professorships are a top University priority to help recruit and retain outstanding faculty. Carolina’s vision resonates with the Martins, who want to see UNC continue and expand its status as an indispensable resource for the people in North Carolina and the world. Bob Martin is serving on the SILS campaign committee to help ensure the School reaches its $16 million goal.

The Martin’s leadership support of SILS comprises the Martin Distinguished Professorship commitment, as well as a series of special gifts for the Drs. Barbara and Robert S. Martin Research Assistant program. Glenna Matteson (MSLS ’17), the inaugural recipient of the assistantship, played an indispensable role in the implementation of the Steinfirst Artist-in-Residence program, a dramatically expanded SILS youth literacy initiative that brings together well-known authors with public school students for a week of mentorship and discovery.

Delivering his remarks at the celebration, Bob Martin emphasized that although the professorship will bear his name, it is a joint commitment from him and his wife. “This is every bit Barbara’s initiative as it is mine,” he said. “We share the perspective that libraries of all types are fundamentally educational institutions and that the primary function of any library is to facilitate learning, to support the process of transforming information into knowledge.”

The dinner on March 18, hosted in the SILS Library, included comments and toasts from Marchionini and Dr. Charles B. Lowry, SILS Campaign Committee Co-Chair. Lowry pointed out that he and Bob Martin had pursued parallel career paths, but had not connected until they both became involved with the SILS Board of Visitors.

“Here in this place, we have entered into a common cause, to support the school that has given us both so much,” Lowry said. “One of the defining characteristics of this school is its creation of leaders. Bob, you have certainly been that.”

Lowry outlined several of Martin’s career highlights, including his leadership of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and service as Director and Librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives. Such accomplishments earned him the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest civilian honor conferred in the United States, among other honors.

Lowry also recognized the distinguished career of Barbara Stein Martin, who unfortunately could not attend the dinner due to a family emergency. Barbara Martin is Professor Emeritus, College of Information, University of North Texas, where she was the Hazel Harvey Peace Professor for Children’s Library Services. As director of UNT’s School Library certification program, she launched the country’s first online school library certificate preparation for licensed teachers, which Lowry praised for having a huge impact across the state and the nation.

UNC President Margaret Spellings reads a letter
from former First Lady Laura Bush.

Following Lowry’s remarks, Dean Marchionini introduced Margaret Spellings. The UNC system president had come to know the Martins during Bob Martin’s time as Director of the Texas State Library, during which Spellings served as senior advisor for then Governor George W. Bush. They crossed paths again during Martin’s tenure as director of IMLS, which coincided with Spellings’ time in Washington, D.C., where she served as both White House Domestic Policy Advisor and U.S. Secretary of Education for President George W. Bush.

“Good government is only possible if you have good information,” Spellings said. “That is why I am so pleased to meet students like the ones here tonight and to visit an institution like [SILS], which is so vital to the continued strength of the country and democracy.”

After offering her own compliments to the Martins, Spellings read a letter from former First Lady Laura Bush.

“Congratulations to my friends, Dr. Bob Martin and Dr. Barbara Stein Martin . . .” the letter began. “I am thrilled to add my applause to the well-deserved recognition from the University of North Carolina. Bob and Barb have contributed much to the advancement of information and library sciences, and the new professorship extends their good works . . .”

The letter goes on to highlight many of the couple’s professional contributions at both the state and national level, concluding “Their lifelong efforts have advanced the mission of America’s libraries and emphasized the indispensable role school libraries play in improving student achievement and encouraging students to love reading.”

Bob Martin addresses guests at the celebration on March 18.

Following Spellings’ presentation, Bob Martin addressed the dinner guests, offering reflections on how the biography he wrote of Louis Round Wilson for his dissertation at SILS helped him understand that “libraries are all about learning,” a fundamental truth that shaped the rest of his career.

Though they have affiliations with many other institutions of higher learning, Martin said that he and his wife chose to support SILS because they wanted to make a difference in the profession to which they had devoted their lives.

“There is no better place to accomplish that goal than UNC SILS,” Bob Martin said. “Since its founding, the School has maintained a remarkably consistent record of quality, due in large part to the leadership of an extraordinary series of Deans and the outstanding faculty that they have recruited and retained. Barbara and I simply want to be associated with this record of quality.”

Click here for more photos from the dinner.

More about the Martins

Barbara Stein Martin is Professor Emeritus, College of Information, University of North Texas, where she was the Hazel Harvey Peace Professor for Children’s Library Services, the first  professorship at a four-year public university in Texas to be named for an African-American woman. As director of UNT’s School Library certification program, Barbara launched the country’s first fully online school library certificate preparation for licensed teachers. She authored six books, several book chapters and articles, and was the Neal-Schuman series editor for “How-to Manuals for School and Small Public Libraries.” Barbara has served on several boards, including the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (Rutgers) and, since its founding in 2002, the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries, which makes yearly grants to libraries throughout the country and led a special effort rebuild school library collections devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Barbara holds a PhD from UNT, as well as other degrees and certifications, having attended Colorado State University, University of Northern Colorado, and the University of Nevada at Reno.

Robert Sidney Martin is Professor Emeritus, School of Library and Information Studies, Texas Woman’s University, where he was the Lillian Bradshaw Endowed Chair until his retirement in 2008. From 2001 to 2005 he served as Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. He was Director and Librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives from 1995 to 2000. He has authored or edited numerous publications on library management, the history of libraries and librarianship, and the history of the exploration and mapping of the American West. He has been elected and/or appointed to numerous positions of leadership in service organizations for library and archives professionals. His work has been recognized with numerous honors and awards, including Distinguished Service Awards from both the Texas Library Association and the Society of Southwest Archivists.  He is a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists and a Distinguished Alumnus of Rice University as well as UNC SILS. In 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest civilian honor conferred in the United States.  He earned a BA in History from Rice University, an MLS from the University of North Texas, and a PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.