Robert Harlan

Robert D. "Bob" Harlan

Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley, died peacefully at his San Francisco home on April 8, 2014, at the age of 84. His caretakers and a variety of medical professionals made it possible for him to remain at home during his last months.

Bob was born and raised in Hastings, Nebraska, where he attended local public schools and Hastings College. He was a Korean War veteran. He earned a master's degree in history and master's and doctorate degrees in Library Science at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.  In 1963 he began teaching at UC Berkeley's School of Librarianship (now the School of Information). During his thirty-year tenure he served at different times as Associate Dean and Acting Dean of the School in addition to teaching. He was interviewed as part of the Library School project of the Bancroft Library's Regional Oral History Office. The text of his interview is available online at

Bob's research focused on the history of printing and publishing, with an emphasis on San Francisco Bay Area presses and their publications. A bibliography of his major publications can be found in his entries in Who's Who in America editions of the 1990s.  He was an interviewer for the Regional Oral History Office at The Bancroft Library, interviewing local fine press printers. After his 1993 retirement he volunteered at The Bancroft Library as a cataloguer of printing ephemera.

Bob was a member of professional societies relating to his research interests, and of local bibliographical societies. He was a strong supporter of The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley and the UC Berkeley Library. He was a devoted guardian for a series of cats, and donated generously to animal charities, including In Defense of Animals, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the San Francisco SPCA. He supported a number of environmental causes, including Save the Bay, the Wilderness Society, and The Nature Conservancy. He was a member of and contributor to the Adams County Historical Society of Hastings, Nebraska.

Bob was predeceased by his parents, Madge and Hugh Harlan, Sr., and by his only sibling, his brother Hugh Harlan, Jr. He is survived by his sister-in-law Dolores Harlan, nephews Lonn and Dan Harlan, niece Lori Henkenius, and their spouses, children, and grandchildren. 

Bob is also survived by a wide circle of friends he made through the years - colleagues, former students, and fellow bibliophiles. They recognized and respected that he was an intensely private man with a need for solitude, and valued the time they could spend with him. He had a great sense of humor and enjoyed sharing wine and meals.

A memorial service for Bob will be held at a future date.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Apr. 13, 2014