Steve Cisler, digital librarian, RIP

Steve Cisler, the quintessential "digital librarian," died last week of cancer. Steve was a pioneer in the kinds of information retrieval, virtual communities, and global knowledge sharing that have become the platforms of today's Web. My colleague Michael Liebhold at Institute for the Future worked with Steve for years at Apple, where Steve ran the Library of Tomorrow program. Mike writes of his friend:
Cisler2222Many people's lives were touched by Steve; Steve is widely known and beloved across many communities around the world for his years of work worldwide, initially as leader of Apple's Library of Tomorrow, and later leading programs worldwide for a broad network of international groups helping people in developing communities understand and do practical and interesting things with computers, networks and the web.

We worked together during the 1980s and 1990s, and then over the last decade he and I traveled widely over different paths, but e-mailed or talked almost daily, and celebrated often in person with our families or friends whenever we could. For me he was simply a kind, generous friend, a fascinating character, a wonderful conversationalist, a great cook and a great gardener. We shared many wonderful times together talking about books, music, culture, over meals including wine, tortillas, and fresh foods he made himself. Even up until the very difficult end, Steve was always cheerful and intently interested in talking about the world. His passing leaves a great void in my life, that leaves me almost speechless.

Others on the web, have written more eloquent retrospectives than I could, including these:

Steve Cisler - first Internet librarian
Steve Cisler is gone
• Steve Cisler RIP
• Steve Cisler Passes

And this e-mail posted to the Nettime list by Ted Byfield, one of Steve's many dear friends around the globe. Link

UPDATE: A site has been established for Steve's friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and family to post their remembrances. There is also information on the site about an upcoming memorial service and where to send donations in memory of Steve. Link



  1. Awww. Truly sad news. I remember Steve from the early days of The Well and his work at CPSR. Such a warm, sweet guy, always ready to help, to teach. A true pioneer of virtual community and networking, and of course, digital library science.

  2. thanks for posting this David, Just after the article was posted, I received this note from another of Steve’s many friends:

    In addition to the links you offer in your posting, a blog has beenestablished for people to post recollections, stories and expressions to the
    family of Steve Cisler.

    Please log on, post your remembrances, and let others know.

    Richard Lowenberg
    1st-Mile Institute

  3. @MIKELIEBHOLD (#2), I updated the main post. Thanks.

    @TBFLD (#3), Thanks so much for posting that video.

  4. So sad. Steve was a great inspiration to me in the early days of BMUG and later at MacWEEK magazine and the Apple spinoff User Group Connection, through his Apple Library User Group work and the community-organizing work he did. Always friendly, helpful, calm, interested. Ahead of his time in pre-internet visions of a connective, collaborative, community-driven world.

    On my way over to the memorial blog to meet mutual friends and perhaps find ways to make sure the spirit of his great work continues…

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