Agnes Henebry Roll of Honor Award
Recipient: Chris Hardesty, The Wall Street Journal
Presenter: Charlie Campo, Retired, Bangor Daily News
I think that most of us have a Chris Hardesty memory. He’s always been there to help and to arrange our annual good times. Quite often that has involved pointing me in the right direction…in hotels, subways, train stations, baseball parks, and, most critically, in airports. A few years ago, he cleverly got me rerouted to Maine after my flight had been cancelled in DC. But he does that for everyone.
He’s known in the division as the boy wonder. He says he began his library career by answering a help wanted ad in the newspaper for a library assistant. The job looked a lot better than a job at the mall and it certainly paid better. He interviewed and got the job and was quickly on his way learning the ropes of news librarianship. He did such an impressive job, that when the head librarian left a few months later, he recommended that his supervisor consider Chris to succeed him. They did hire Chris, and at the tender age of NINETEEN he became the head librarian at the Chattanooga Times. NINETEEN, boy wonder, indeed!
He served at the Chattanooga Times as Assistant Librarian from 1987-88 and as Head Librarian from 1988-96. While at Chattanooga, Chris got to know the folks in Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville in the course of his daily work. Back then we communicated primarily through phones that were hard-wired to the wall.
Chris attended his first SLA conference at Atlanta in 1995. There Cronin put him to work at the Division’s Hospitality Suite. He got to meet a lot of folks there. You betcha!
In 1996 Chris moved to the News & Observer in Raleigh-Durham where he was News Research Manager from 1996-98.
In 1998 he moved to the San Jose Mercury News where he served as Library Director from 1998-2001.
In 2001, Chris moved to Long Island to become the Library Director at Newsday. He held this position until he was caught up in a big reduction in force at the newspaper.
He took a severance package and looked for work, managing to land a number of freelance research projects along the way.
Finally, in 2010, he landed the job of Topics and Guides Editor for the Wall Street Journal online edition. He continues to serve in that position.
Chris is the News Division member who elevated the annual auction to an art form and we can only hope someone can re-energize the auction like he did.
He’s also been the photographer that has taken thousands of photographs at conference. If you were at conference, he can probably pull several photos of you out of his files. His photos have proven invaluable in preparing annual award presentations.
Chris, as a member and chair of the Vormelker-Thomas Student Stipend Award Committee, has introduced a number of young, talented librarians to the News Division.
Chris also has received a Freedom Forum/SLA International Program fellowship to Russia, where he introduced journalists to news research on the internet, but I’ll come back to that.
He was a member of the visiting faculty for the Poynter Institute’s “News Libraries for the Year 2000”
And he served as Treasurer for the News Division.
But, let me digress and return to the topic of his trip to Russia to introduce Russian journalists to news research on the internet. Chris got so many questions about his trip that he did an article in New Library News where he posed those questions and answered them for the reader. I’ll share a brief excerpt to give you an idea of the privations Chris suffered for SLA and the News Division while serving behind the former Iron Curtain:
To Russia, With Love
By Chris Hardesty
I suppose I’ll never be able to give a thorough travelogue of my trip to Russia last November. The story has been told dozens of times, but folks still toss out questions looking for facts and anecdotes that I fail to mention. Read on. I’ll answer some of the questions I’ve been asked.
Q: OK. About the language differences?
…I was never left too long without an English speaker. In Moscow, they arranged for young English-speaking women to take me to see the sights.
Q: Were they pretty?
Absolutely incredible! Beautiful and elegant is more like it. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures, but you can’t fully appreciate the beauty until you stand next to something and touch it. It’s a full sensory kind of thing. You take in the sounds, smells, everything. Some were deteriorating, though.
Q: Are you talking about the women?
No, I thought “pretty” was referring to the sights. But yes, my sightseeing guides were pretty too. I saw many pretty women. And again, beautiful and elegant is a better description. The stereotype of Russian women being unattractive and bulky is no more accurate than the stereotype of librarians being old maids with their hair in a bun.
Of course I have to admit there have been a lot of rumors about Chris and SLA Conference, so I’ll break down and share a couple with you.
At the Toronto conference, the exhibit hall had a large foyer where SLA had set up its usual information kiosks and included among them was a booth maintained by the next year’s host community, Baltimore. About mid-week in conference, Chris and I were walking through the area and noticed that the booth was devoid of workers but surrounded by interested attendees. So we did what every good news librarian does, we slid into the booth which was laden with brochures, pins, restaurants guides, and tourist maps. Chris was very much in his element as we handed out all kinds of information to the folks contemplating an informative visit to Baltimore for the next year’s conference. Some of the information was accurate, but all of it was given out in a friendly, engaging and enthusiastic manner. Eventually someone smelled a rat and hurried off to find the person in charge. She came purposely striding up to us and in an indignant aside, asked us who we were and what did we think we were doing. We sweetly explained that we had noticed a need and moved to address it. She said that our services were no longer needed and that we should move along. The story could have ended there, but Chris and I had the last laugh. That year they had assembled a rapid-fire video collage of the conference week that was, a virtual trip through the events of the Toronto conference. And, you guessed it, there representing SLA’s bridge to the next conference was Chris, enthusiastically dispensing dubious information from the Baltimore booth.
In Indianapolis, Chris had another conference adventure. I had wandered off to bed one night when he and a few other revelers decided that they just had to assuage their hunger by driving to the local White Castle for some early morning burgers. Apparently they had a wonderful time, but the next morning I received an urgent call from Chris telling me that he had lost his wallet and all his identification on that trip to White Castle. I sympathized, but little did I realize how much inconvenience this loss would entail. Over the next two days, Chris cancelled his credit cards and made arrangements with home state officials for a fax of a photo ID that would allow him to board a plane for home. It all came together, but I’ve always thought that I should have kept a better watch on him and I’ve wanted to do something to assure it won’t happen again. So, here is my personal gift to you on the occasion of your joining the Agnes Henebry Roll of Honor. [Campo hands Chris a large leather wallet complete with dangling chain to secure it to his belt.] Chris, I want you to use this wallet from now on whenever you wander at conference. And, more importantly, I want to congratulate you and present you with your Agnes Henebry Roll of Honor Award.