William Josiah Alspaugh, known to his Library colleagues as Bill, died on January 24, 2016 at the age of 73 after a lengthy and varied career at the University of Chicago Library.
Bill worked in the Southern Asia Department from 1978 to 1997. One of Bill’s notable academic accomplishments was his collaboration from 1978 to 1981 with Maureen L. P. Patterson in compilation of the much-lauded South Asian Civilizations: A Bibliographic Synthesis, published in 1981 by the University of Chicago Press. From 1981 to 1997 he served as Assistant to the Bibliographer for Southern Asia. He also served as Associate Editor of South Asia Library Notes and Queries. His engagement during the 1980s and early 1990s in the preparation of the Indological Books in Series database was of pivotal importance, as was his contribution to the subsequent preservation of books described in that resource. Many of our graduate students benefited from his intelligence and generosity as a South Asia reference librarian.
Bill started working at the East Asian Collection in 1997, initially part-time, and soon assumed the duty of Chinese Bibliographer full-time. Later, he became Chinese Bibliographer/Cataloger, splitting his time between collection development, public services, and cataloging. For more than 10 years, he built the Chinese studies collection in western languages while also selecting many titles in Chinese language. Bill’s knowledge of the research resources for Chinese studies, especially those in western languages, was of great benefit to many graduate and undergrad students through the reference and consultation services he provided.
Bill retired from his Chinese Bibliographer/Cataloger position in 2008, but remained as a part-time Chinese cataloger until May 2011, and then again from March 2013 to 2015. Throughout his years with the East Asian Collection, Bill made great contributions, making a large number of newly acquired Chinese books accessible to patrons through his efforts in original cataloging.
After retirement in 2011, he volunteered at Cheena Bhavan, the Institute of Chinese Language and Culture, in Santiniketan near Calcutta, cataloging their Chinese collection.
Bill was fluent in Mandarin, Hindi, and French. He also studied Tamil language. He was a merit scholar during his secondary education in Oklahoma City. Bill received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Chicago and attended Stanford University where the Air Force sent him to the Defense Language Institute. There he studied Mandarin and subsequently monitored mainland China radio broadcasts from Taiwan and Okinawa. After discharge, he worked for Aetna for several years before returning to the University of Chicago for graduate study in the Department of East Asian Studies and, while a graduate student, to work in the Library. He earned a master’s degree in library science from the University of Chicago Graduate Library School while working in the Library’s Southern Asia Department.
Bill was an intellectual shaped by his studies in the University of Chicago’s College and his years of close collaboration with colleagues in the Library, faculty, and our students. He said that he read articles in scholarly journals with a relish and zeal comparable to that exhibited by others in their reading of mysteries.
Bill is survived by a sister, Elizabeth Beasley, and two nephews, Robert Barrett Beasley and Charles Emory Alspaugh II.