Palpable Passion

Dr. Stephen Bensman

Dr. Stephen Bensman in his home office | Photo by Andrea Barbier

Accomplished informetrics scholar and retired LSU librarian Dr. Stephen Bensman has empowered LSU Libraries to build a unique collection of Southern Jewish history and cultural materials, with opportunities for related educational programming. Bensman hopes the gift, to be made through a charitable bequest, will reinforce LSU's overall excellence in the humanities.

"Steve's gift will allow us to go much deeper by way of documenting Southern Jewish communities, organizations and individuals," LSU Libraries Dean Stanley Wilder shared. "The timing couldn't be better–the most important primary source materials are still out there, but we know that they are disappearing quickly. This is just the way with archives and manuscripts: without libraries, they inexorably succumb to the ravages of time and climate, or neglect."

Bensman was a part of the LSU Libraries team for 37 years, retiring in 2015 as a technical services librarian. He applied his expertise in informetrics (the use of statistical methods to study the impact of published works) and foreign language to LSU Libraries' holdings and received the 2010 Scholar Librarian of the Year Award from the Louisiana Chapter of the Association of College & Research Libraries. Dean Wilder, Bensman's former research assistant, described his passion for information science as "just palpable," adding that the impact of his gift will "stand the test of time."

Bensman, who is of Russian Jewish heritage, noted that the role of Jewish people in Southern history is largely unstudied. "For example, Judah P. Benjamin was Jewish, a wealthy slave owner from Louisiana and secretary of war and secretary of state for the Confederacy," Bensman explained. "My thought was that this could be a little pot of money to build a little niche collection, a supplement to LSU's main strength: Southern history."

Much of Bensman's past research focused on Britain's development of a national scientific information system and the invention of science citation indexing by Eugene Garfield, whose authoritative website has posted many of Bensman's articles. Today, he continues to study new statistical methods, such as using Pareto power laws to analyze scientific productivity, measuring outcomes with Google Scholar.

Originally published by the LSU Foundation in Cornerstone Winter 2017 and Spring 2018.