British Columbia Library Association

‘I quickly discovered, and admired, his consistent willingness to speak truth to power’

By Ben Hyman

I first met Brian Campbell in 2001 in his office at Vancouver Public Library. Then a manager at the Vancouver Island Regional Library, I knew Brian mostly through glimpses of his legendary contributions to BCLA’s Annual General Meetings. That first meeting had something to do with the Integrated Library System woes both library systems were suffering through at the time, and an ill-conceived strategy to correct things. I recall arriving somewhat unprepared and inarticulate. That meeting went about as well as you’d expect.

Brian Campbell at the 1996 BC Library Conference. Photo provided by Jacqueline van Dyk.

Brian Campbell at the 1996 BC Library Conference. Photo provided by Jacqueline van Dyk.

Later, I came to know Brian through his pioneering connectivity work. On a visit to Haida Gwaii to upgrade library connectivity in 2005, Brian’s name and positive influence on early community internet initiatives came up. In 2013, when the BC Libraries Co-op managed to secure a historic agreement with BCNET for public library access to Canada’s Advanced Research Network, again Brian’s influence was clear and present—as it was when VPL signed on to that agreement last year.

I count myself lucky that Brian and I have some friends and close colleagues in common, and I’m grateful to have gotten to know him a little in that context. I quickly discovered, and admired, his consistent willingness to speak truth to power. I knew him to be the smartest person in most any room. A fantastic strategist, the Co-op and I personally benefitted from his wisdom and perspective on a few vexing policy issues. Brian’s perspective was salient, succinct, forthright, and frequently challenging, whether invited or not.

I will miss him.


Ben Hyman is the Executive Director at BC Libraries Cooperative. Beginning mid-February 2017 he will be the University Librarian at Vancouver Island University. A leader, technologist, policy strategist and advocate for the use of open tools, he has held positions in government, public, and post-secondary libraries, as well as private sector environments.

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