Charles T. Payne, former Assistant Director for Systems, used the skills he developed as an engineer at the University of Chicago Library to pioneer the library automation process. He died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on August 1 at the age of 89.
In 1964, Payne joined the Library as its first Systems Librarian, with a “short-term” assignment from Director Herman Fussler to examine and apply computer technology to libraries. Beginning with a full systems analysis of Library operations, Payne led the creation and implementation in 1974 of the Library Data Management System (LDMS), one of the first library automated systems.
Payne’s work made Chicago a leader in the emerging field of library automation. While LDMS was specifically tailored for Chicago’s needs, its design principles influenced systems at many other libraries. Payne and other Library staff were also early contributors to the MARC format for cataloging records, the national and international standard for storing bibliographic data in electronic form.
In addition to his work with LDMS and MARC, Payne was involved in setting many national standards for cataloging. He was Chair of the American Library Association’s MARBI (Machine-Readable Bibliographic Information) standards committee, the MARBI Character Set Task Force, and the American National Standards Institute/National Information Standards Organization Z39 Subcommittee N, Character Sets. His expertise was recognized by the profession in 1990 when he was one of eight librarians nationally asked to contribute to the MARC XX Oral History Project. Payne retired from the Library in 1995 after 31 years of service.
“Charles was a visionary who saw the potential of automation and standardization for streamlining and sharing library processes. He was also a man of great intelligence, passion, and quiet humor,” said Alice Schreyer, Interim Library Director and Associate University Librarian for Area Studies and Special Collections. “He was a leader and a mentor to many staff members.”
Payne was born in central Kansas and served in the U.S. Army during World War II, working on communication systems and helping to liberate Ohrduf, a subcamp of the Buchenwald concentration camp. After the war, he earned a B.S. in chemical engineering from Kansas State University and worked as a chemical engineer before enrolling in the University’s Graduate Library School in 1960. Prior to his work as Systems Librarian, Payne held positions as Reference Librarian and Research Associate in the Industrial Relations Center at the University.
In addition to his wife Melanie, Payne is survived by his son Richard, his brother Jon V. Payne and additional family including President Barack Obama, his grandnephew.