The Once and Future Wallace


Charles H. Smith: Bio

    Ordinarily in a setting like this I might restrict my bio to three or four sentences, but as this particular effort projects some expansive ideas it only seems fair to provide the reader with a bit more context (and by the way, my professional homepage may be viewed at: ). This seems all the more important as my career trace has been a bit unusual, and those inhabiting some of the more elite ivory towers of learning might otherwise puzzle at such strange writings coming from a science librarian--one, moreover, one working at a comparatively remote location.

     After growing up in a (very) small town in rural northwestern Connecticut and graduating second in my high school class, I attended Wesleyan University in Middletown. Wesleyan is one of the very best undergraduate science institutions in the country, and I did not finish second in my class there! Apart from the heightened competition (e.g., though I eventually did earn my Ph.D, all of the other three geology majors in my graduating class beat me to it!), I was beginning to suffer some effects from chronic and continuing bouts with several sleep- and wakefulness-related disorders, and ended up in the bottom third of the class. This, together with some depressingly low geology advanced GRE test scores, killed any thoughts of graduate school for the time being.

     Then commenced a few years of factory employments and taking the odd class during the mid-1970s period. In 1974 I entered the Forest Resources program at the University of Georgia, but didn't like it and returned to Connecticut. I became interested in systems theory, mysticism and metaphysics at this time, reading dozens of works by writers such as Teilhard de Chardin, Ouspensky, von Bertalanffy, and Paul A. Weiss. In 1975 or 1976 I retook the advanced GREs in geology, but did no better than the first time around. However, I also retook the aptitude tests and added the advanced tests in biology and, on a whim, geography. In four of the sub-tests on these last three I made much more impressive scores (including two 800s), which caused me to reconsider graduate school, this time in geography. In 1977 I entered the program at Indiana University, finishing my M.A. two years later. I then continued on in geography at the University of Illinois, finishing my Ph.D. there in 1984. This was capped by a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Melbourne.

     On paper, my graduate studies record looked pretty good: degrees from excellent programs, 3.9/4.0 GPAs in both, a post-doc at the best university in Australia, and seven articles published during this period as first or only author in peer-reviewed venues. But in 1986 my rather unusual combination of interests--as a geography-trained zoogeographer more interested in historical than ecological problems, statistics than mathematics, and in the history and philosophy of my field than in its technology-focused areas (such as GIS and remote sensing)--caught up with me. For four years I could find almost no paying work at all, though this "freedom" left me with time to explore a number of unusual systems theory-related thoughts.

     Finally, in 1990 I picked up some contracts administration work as a temp. In 1992 I realized I might be able to apply my broad background and knowledge of the research process itself to a career in academic librarianship, and at the beginning of the next year moved to Pittsburgh, where I completed the MLS program at Pitt around the beginning of 1995. I was made Western Kentucky University's Science Librarian shortly thereafter.

     I am now Professor of Library Public Services here, having been promoted to that position in 2004. Since about 1999 I have been engaged primarily in the production of monograph-scale information sources and services, including five book projects and twelve websites. I may continue in this already reasonably productive direction, but recently I have also felt an increasing urge to set out the results of some of my earlier theoretical explorations, "left-field" in nature though some may consider them.



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