UCB Libraries

2006 Ellsworth Award Winner: John Culshaw

Since 1991, the Ralph E. Ellsworth Award had honored Ralph Ellsworth, director of the CU Libraries from 1937-1943 and from 1958-1972. Ralph published over ten books on library architecture, book storage, the right wing, school libraries, and a biography of George Norlin. He also wrote over fifty journal articles on library planning and was a sought-after consultant in that area. After he retired, he volunteered in the acquisitions department until he moved to Laramie where he died in 2000.


The winner of this year’s award is John Culshaw. First hired as a reference librarian, he became the faculty director of the Systems Department in 1996. Since then, John has managed an incredible number of changes from the transition from CARL with its dumb terminals to Innovative Interfaces with personal computers on every desktop. He continues to manage the more and more complex systems, initiatives, and web services that we have today. He has carefully grown the Systems Department to manage the unbelievable changes that have taken place in information technology in the last few years.

One of John’s nomination letters speaks to his accomplishments:

“The University Libraries is one of the most technology-intensive and most visible departments on the Boulder campus. John’s vision and leadership has played a key role in shaping how the technology infrastructure works and supporting the hundreds of desktop devices that patrons and Libraries’ faculty and staff use everyday. Throughout the constant changes, John has excelled at explaining to the Libraries’ faculty and staff how the minimal resources of the Systems Department are being deployed and for what reasons.”

John has also been the face of Norlin on campus as a long-term member of the Instructional Computing Working Group where he managed to garner hundreds of thousands of dollars in computer hardware for the Libraries. He has also forged a partnership with the campus office of Information Technology Services which has resulted in the Libraries’ electronic resources being effectively integrated into the campus network and has brought wireless networking to the Libraries. On the regional level, he founded the Rocky Mountain Regional Innovative Users Group and chaired it. This led to his participation in the development of important authentication for Millenium software. He also has chaired the International Innovative Users Group. One of his letters comments: His personal dedication to the Rocky Mountain Users Group has facilitated training and development opportunities for hundreds of colleagues in the Rocky Mountain Region.”

The co-author of his book, MANAGING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: A HANDBOOK FOR SYSTEMS LIBRARIANS, says: “This project would have been unmanageable if John had not been so well informed about current trends and practices unfolding in academic libraries.” The book has been noted as unique in the area of systems librarianship.
John has been praised as a colleague and mentor, an articulate communicator, and a professional of the highest order. But, in every letter, his vision was one of the first traits described. His leadership, guidance, and vision make him an outstanding winner of this award.