Vern M. Pings was born April 10, 1923 in Sauk City, Wisconsin. After high school he left the farm and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1939. In 1941 he went to the Alexian Brothers Hospital School of Nursing in Chicago, graduating in 1944. He continued his education at the University of Chicago (Ph.B., 1946) and at the University of Wisconsin for a B.A. in Zoology in 1947. He enrolled at Columbia University in New York City in the fall of 1948 for a Master’s degree in Health Education, which was interrupted by working abroad, and completed in 1952. After five years in the Middle East, he returned to the University of Wisconsin and earned his Library Science degree in 1955. He continued at the University of Wisconsin and received his Ph.D. in Education in 1958.
His employment record was varied and spread over a wide geographic area. From 1944-47 he was employed by various hospitals in Madison, Wisconsin, and Chicago. He was the Science instructor at the Englewood Hospital School of Nursing in Chicago in 1947-48. In 1949 he worked with the American Friends Service Committee to provide emergency relief to Palestinian refugees in Gaza as an Environmental Sanitation Officer. From 1950-52 he was employed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in Beirut, Lebanon, as a Works Officer, then he joined the American University of Beirut’s School of Agriculture as Director of the University Farm (1952-54.)
Vern’s first job as a librarian was Assistant Engineering Librarian at the University of Wisconsin (1956-59.) His next position was Director of Libraries at Ohio Northern University, Ada, Ohio (1959.) In 1960 he was an Associate Professor at the University of Denver Library School in Denver, Colorado. He moved to Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, first to become the Directory of the Medical Library (1960-71), and then Director of University Libraries (1971-82.) During his last two years at Wayne State (1984-86), he had an appointment in the Library School. Over the years he held teaching appointments at Kent State University, Case Western Reserve University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Chicago. At Wayne State he also carried out a medical library internship program supported by the National Library of Medicine.
His approach to librarianship hinged on the idea that there should be no small libraries; the entire scholarly record should be available to all. Interlibrary cooperation occupied much of his time. He reorganized the Detroit Medical Library Group which produced the Selected List of Biomedical Serials using electronic data processing equipment in 1963. He helped establish the network of medical resource libraries of Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan under the National Library of Medicine Regional Medical Library Program. He also helped organize and operate the Michigan Library Consortium to bring the services of OCLC to Michigan libraries. He founded the Southeast Michigan League of Libraries in 1978 to insure access to library services for all students and faculty in the area.
Vern was a member of the Medical Library Association, the American Library Association, the Special Libraries Association, the Michigan Library Association, and their local and regional chapters. He worked on various committees in these organizations and in 1988 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Medical Library Association. His many publications are on administrative and operational library problems. Some of these arose from his appointments to the Institute for the Advancement of Medical Communication, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Hospital Association. His investigative work was in part supported by grants from the National Library of Medicine, the American Nurses Foundation, the Shiffman Foundation, and the Kellogg Foundation.