Jess Martin is known for planning and building libraries and supervising the moving of five library collections. He was the director of the Medical Library and Professor of Medical Librarianship at the University of Tennessee from 1971-1988. In 1989 he was elected a Medical Library Association Fellow. He believes that "the Director...shouldn't assume that things that have happened that have been outstanding... are the result of his efforts alone..."
In 1952, before attending library school, Jess Martin was offered a position as head librarian at the San Diego County Medical Society. He then received a Medical Library Association Scholarship and attended the University of Southern California Library School. In 1957 he realized that “I could only learn so much working by myself...I really needed to work with other librarians.” He became Head of the Technical Process Center for the Astronautics Library in San Diego, and says “I think that I was a better library administrator...because of the year of experience as head of Technical Services.” In 1958-1960 he was an Associate Librarian and Instructor at the University of Kentucky Medical Center helping Al Brandon to plan a new library and "to develop an entirely new collection...they had no materials at all."/p>
His first position as head of a library was from 1960-1963 at the Medical Library at Ohio State University where he “first became aware that weeding a collection in many respects is almost as important as acquiring materials.” In 1963 he became Chief of the National Institutes of Health Library where he developed a library internship program and completed the National Institutes of Health serials automation project. He notes that the National Institutes of Health “was the only place where the library was planned and completed on time, which is contrary to what most people think happens in a government operation.” In 1968 he moved to Philadelphia to be director of the Health Sciences Library at Temple University then in 1971 to be Director of the Medical Library at the University of Tennessee, “the best organized library that I have ever inherited.”
At Tennessee in addition to again supervising the planning and construction of a new building he was able to gain true faculty status for professional librarians, sponsor a drug information center in the library and implement the automation of a library information system. He also continued the postgraduate training program for science librarians started by Irene Jones and feels it “did more [than anything] to call the attention of the scientists and the faculty at UT to the library...and to the importance of the library.”
Educating librarians was important to Jess, and while library director at various libraries he held positions and taught in the library schools at Drexel, the University of Maryland, University of Tennessee, and Memphis State. “I've always been proud that I rose through the academic ranks [to the] Professor rank at the University of Tennessee.”
At his first Medical Library Association meeting in Los Angeles, chaired by Bertha Hallam, he was impressed that “the most important medical librarians at that convention took time to talk to me.” He chaired many committees including the membership, certification, international cooperation, internship and continuing education committees. Although he has been president of many other library organizations, he holds the “dubious honor of being the first Medical Library Association candidate for president to lose twice.”
He iterates his philosophy of administration, “a library staff can make you look awfully good....”