1917 - 2016
Stanley J. Slote, a leading Westchester County, NY, builder who made a striking mid-career, midlife pivot into the world of books, died on July 23rd at his home in Somers, NY. After the fourth printing of his classic 1975 reference work, "Weeding Library Collections," a 2002 New York Times article, "So Many Books, So Little Space," dubbed him the "Darwin" of the multidisciplinary-and often contentious-field of library science. Dr. Slote was 99.
During a multi-pronged career that spanned nearly six decades, Dr. Slote relinquished his role as a prominent builder in the Northeast to earn his PhD at Rutgers University. While still a doctoral student-and continuing over many years as a teacher of library science at Queens College-he pioneered the use of statistical analysis to systematically "deaccess" volumes crowding library shelves. "As Mr. Slote saw it," reported the Times, "collections could be separated over time into two stark categories, read and unread. Books that hadn't been touched in years were just taking up space, a library's scarcest commodity." His method of weeding resulted in both added room for new acquisitions and improved circulation, and became known as the Slote Method, a widely-accepted "best practice" solution employed by countless libraries since.
Dr. Slote, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 17, 1917, to Benjamin and Muriel Slote, both Russian immigrants. He graduated from Cornell University in 1939, and served in World War II as a 2nd Lieutenant navigation officer. Sent by the Navy to the the American midwest to transition back to civilian life, Dr. Slote met Margaret Larson.
After moving to Westchester County, NY, Dr. Slote founded the Crossway Construction Company in the early 1950s, and became President of the Home Builders Association of Westchester in 1957. He actively campaigned for federal support to increase lower- and middle-income housing, stating in a newspaper interview that "a no-man's land" existed for "white collar employees, teachers, police and firemen", who were "vital to the proper functioning of our Westchester communities."
After his remarkable second act as writer/teacher, Dr. Slote moved on to still a third career as "profit improvement specialist." In that capacity, he raised the bottom lines for dozens of small and medium-sized businesses, notably guiding the Freelance Photographers Guild to a ten-fold increase in size. "He completely transformed the way the company operated," recalled the company's former CEO, Jessica Brackman, citing his "wise counsel". Dr. Slote would disconcert some clients by insisting they provide him with a nap room-some 40 years before Arianna Huffington heralded office naps as a performance-enhancing tool.
Divorced in 1975, Dr. Slote married the former Frances Hagemeyer in 1981. She survives him, as do his three children, Audrey Slote Tirendi of White Plains, NY, Patty Slote of Portland, OR, and Jon Slote of Newton, MA; his two step-children, Ann Johnson of Morristown, NJ, and Alice Hagemeyer DuBon of Mount Kisco, NY; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Published in New York Times from Jul. 24 to Jul. 25, 2016.