Remembering Ralph Shaw

Ralph Shaw was an academic librarian, an educator, and in 1950, the founder of Scarecrow press. He was known as an outspoken guy who forged his career more on the basis of saying what he thought than making friends. I first read about him in Ken Kister’s biography of Eric Moon, which is a great book for learning about the library scene of the mid-20th century. Ralph Shaw’s efforts have inspired me as I have been building up Library Juice Press and Litwin Books along some of the same lines. The barriers to publishing were higher then, and came down most significantly around 1990, when the cost of printing dramatically dropped and many small presses such as mind sprouted up. The way he did it at that time though, as an academic librarian jumping into the scholarly book market, was a method that still applies in my case: operating on extremely low overhead and hustling to find good books that major publisher either miss or don’t want to risk their less-efficient money on. (Don’t read into that that Library Juice Press has lower standards than other publishers in the field. On the contrary, we have directed several projects to better-known publishers over quality concerns, who have taken them on.)

All of this is to introduce a link to an old article that is now freely available on the web: “To Remember Ralph Shaw,” from Current Contents #23, June 5, 1978. I am not sure why the library at U Penn has posted the article, but I’m glad that they did. The article is from Eugene Garfield’s regular column, titled, “Essays of an Information Scientist.” (Eugene Garfield founded ISI.)