Saturday, Oct 20, 2018
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Librarian backed free flow of information


MONROE - Gordon M. Conable, 58, a former director of the Monroe County Library System who introduced the Internet and other technologies while supporting patrons' privacy, died of a heart attack Wednesday in his Riverside, Calif., home.

Mr. Conable, director of the library here from 1988 to 1998, was a strong supporter of the Firsts Amendment. He was president of the American Library Association's Freedom to Read Foundation and recently went around southern California to speak about the Patriot Act's effect on patron privacy and the free flow of information, his wife of 30 years, Irene, said.

"He was always committed to First Amendment issues," she said. "He felt this was a place in the world where he could have a professional life that supported his philosophical beliefs."

Mr. Conable faced controversy and even threats in 1992 when residents objected to the system's circulation of Madonna's Sex. "It got very ugly and hostile, and there were bomb threats phoned in," said Robert Lepsig, who was chairman of the library board during part of Mr. Conable's tenure.

Soon after his arrival, his concerns about patron privacy led him to change the way the library recorded who checked out a book. Patrons had been writing their names and addresses on cards in the backs of the books, so anyone could see who had checked out a book. Under the new system, patrons wrote down which books they checked out on a slip of paper that was shredded after they returned the books.

Mr. Conable was also responsible for much of the automation of the library systems.

Mr. Conable came here from the Fort Vancouver Regional Library in Vancouver, Wash., where he was associate director. He left Monroe to take a job with Library Systems and Services, a private company that manages public libraries.

He graduated from Antioch College in the late 1960s with an art degree. He taught adult reading and math classes in upstate New York, which his wife said helped him see the importance of reading. He received a master's in library science in 1976 from Columbia University.

Surviving are his wife, Irene; son, Ted; brothers, Daniel and Bill, and sister, Katherine Conable.

The body will be in Preston & Simons Mortuary, Riverside, from 2 to 4 p.m. today, followed by services in Universalist Unitarian Church of Riverside.

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