Accomplished informetics scholar and retired LSU librarian Dr. Stephen Bensman has empowered LSU Libraries to build a unique collection of Southern Jewish history and cultural materials, with opportunities for related educational programming. Bensman hopes the gift, to be made through a charitable bequest, will reinforce LSU’s overall excellence in the humanities.
“Steve’s gift will allow us to go much deeper by way of documenting southern Jewish communities, organizations and individuals,” LSU Libraries Dean Stanley Wilder shared. “The timing couldn’t be better–the most important primary source materials are still out there, but we know that they are disappearing quickly. This is just the way with archives and manuscripts: without libraries, they inexorably succumb to the ravages of time and climate, or neglect.”
Bensman was a part of the LSU Libraries team for 37 years, serving in a number of positions and retiring in 2015 as a technical services librarian. As a part of Original Cataloging, he used his expertise in informetrics (the use of statistical methods to study the impact of published works) and foreign language to solve problems in cataloging and authority records, of which many solutions were applied to Special Collections. In addition, Bensman served as secretary of the LSU faculty chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Dean Wilder, Bensman’s former research assistant and co-author of their 1998 journal article on the optimization of scientific and technical serials holdings, described Bensman’s passion for information science as “just palpable,” adding that the impact of his gift will “stand the test of time.”
Bensman, who is of Russian Jewish heritage, noted that the Jewish people’s role in Southern history is largely unstudied. “For example, Judah P. Benjamin was Jewish, a wealthy slave owner from Louisiana and Secretary of War and Secretary of State for the Confederacy,” Bensman, explained. “My thought was that this could be a little pot of money to build a little niche collection, a supplement to LSU’s main strength: Southern history.”
Much of Bensman’s research focused on Britain’s development of a national scientific information system and the invention of science citation indexing by Eugene Garfield, whose authoritative website has posted many of Bensman’s articles. In recognition of his work, Bensman received the 2010 Scholar Librarian of the Year Award from the Louisiana Chapter of the Association of College & Research Libraries. Today, he continues to analyze new statistical methods such as the role of Pareto power laws in scientific productivity, measuring outcomes with Google Scholar.
By Jennie Gutierrez, LSU Foundation, for Cornerstone Winter 2017 and Spring 2018