Gerald (Jerry) Perry, AHIP, FMLA
Monday, May 6, 2019, 9:00 a.m.–10:00 a.m.
Janet Doe Lecturer
Gerald (Jerry) Perry, AHIP, FMLA, is associate dean for the University of Arizona Libraries and director of the University of Arizona Health Sciences Library. Perry has been active in MLA, serving as president in 2011/12. His academic and publishing interests originally were centered on the fight for equitable, life-saving access to health information in response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Perry was co-convener of MLA’s LGBTQ Health Sciences Librarians Special Interest Group and began his association involvement as a member of Relevant Issues Section, now known as the Social Justice Section. Jerry shares with us his powerful story.
The Activist Health Sciences Librarian
There were times when I never expected to make it out of the 1980’s alive. At the remove of 2019, it is hard for many to imagine the sense of apocalypse that was palpable throughout the gay community at that time. Then, I believed it was entirely possible that I too would die of the “gay cancer.” Many people I know did. Looking back, I also believe it was my activism that, in my case, helped enable me to live through that time. And, I hope, that advocacy work helped others to live as well.
My professional career was launched at the height of the AIDS pandemic, before the discovery of the “AIDS cocktail” that reduced viral loads such that HIV infection could be medically managed. With my co-author Robert Malinowsky, the great University of Illinois Chicago sciences bibliographer, in 1988 we wrote the following in the introduction to our reference book, AIDS Information Sourcebook: “The need for education about AIDS is so crucial that words fail to adequately address the problem. There can never be too many resources for AIDS education. We all need to be educated because AIDS is everyone’s concern... Compassion empowered with knowledge can achieve miracles. Short of a miracle, education is the only way to prevent the spread of AIDS and save lives.” That became my mission, saving lives through librarianship. It informed the scholarship I produced, the service I performed, and was both a pathway forward and source of energy and purpose.
Through my research, and the diversity and equity work in which I have engaged, as I learned more about the social determinants of health and why it was that some communities experience a heavier burden of illness and disability, I learned about intersectionality. My points of reference shifted. I became a social justice activist.
My Janet Doe Lecture, The Activist Health Sciences Librarian, presents my story but also the story of activism around social justice issues for our Association, by groups such as the Relevant Issues Section, now the Social Justice Section, and by the work of past Doe Lecturers Rachael Anderson and Gerald Oppenheimer. It is also the story of an Association that has at times been conflicted about the role of such activism in our niche of librarianship.
With anchors in the poetry and prose of Audre Lorde, Patti Smith, Langston Hughes, Leonard Cohen and others, my aim is to share a story of hope through justice, and convey a message of the essentialness of our work as librarians and health information professionals to the mission of saving lives. Please join me.
The Janet Doe Lectureship was established in 1966 by an anonymous donation to support a lecture in honor of Janet Doe (1895–1985), former librarian of the New York Academy of Medicine, historical scholar, past president of MLA, and editor of the first two editions of the Handbook of Medical Library Practice. The lectureship is awarded to individuals for their unique perspectives on the history or philosophy of medical librarianship.