Mark Lindner, RIP

I don’t think of my library school cohort as the people I went to library school with: I think of them as the people I met on the internet. Mark was among those, and while I didn’t know him well, I was gutted to learn that he had died by suicide earlier this week.

In 2004 and 2005 and 2006, the years when I was in library school and just before Twitter, it felt like everyone worth talking to in the library world had a blog. I started on myself in May 2005 in part so I could join the club of blog people (as Michael Gorman called us) and in part so I could attend the first OCLC Blog Salon at my first ALA a couple of months later.

We were a small club in those days, one where it felt like you could get to know just about everyone: you learned about their thoughts on their blogs and about their lives on Flickr. You could get through your feeds in Bloglines during the course of a slow desk shift. We even had a Carnival of the Infosciences, where each week someone would sign up to do a roundup of the best posts of the week, and it always felt like a huge honor to be chosen. All that changed later—I don’t know if it was the number of blogs that changed, or the explosion of social media sites, so that suddenly there were double or triple or quadruple the number of places to follow people, or simply that we all got older and got real jobs and had to contend with the reality of wanting to be all Library 2.0 in a world where we mostly helped people print.

But all that was later. The Mark I remember from those early days was always one of the most thoughtful and diligent people I knew. I think he actually did all the reading for library school (Dear Reader, I did not), and then on top of that he read journal articles for fun, and was even the founder of a club that would discuss them online.

He also wrote about music, and there we had much in common, and, occasionally, about his life. He was a veteran and had a grown kids, and he worried a great deal about himself and his kids and their relationship. That made him much older than I was at the time, when I was in my late twenties and had few real responsibilities beyond attending class, working my low-level jobs, and going to the store to buy more half and half and Soft Scrub with Bleach, both of which my grandmother (whom I lived with) seemed to need on a near daily basis.

I first and last saw Mark in early 2011 at a Lucinda Williams concert here in Iowa City. He and Sara and I chatted about the pig-themed B&B where they were staying and how they needed to get out of northwest Iowa, which they did not too long after, escaping to Bend. Not too long after that I had my own son, and I lost track of almost everyone.

Just now I went hunting through my email and found a little treasure trove of early correspondence with Mark. We started off talking about our mutual dislike of Tom Friedman (for slightly different reasons) and somehow got to the war (which war? The war). I’d started out by saying that I didn’t deserve to have much of an opinion about the military, as I’ve never served, nor has anyone in my family till you go a couple of generations back. He replied

And let me tell you as a vet and the father of a combat vet, your opinion on the war counts as much as anyone else’s! I mean that with all my heart and soul Laura. Remember, or consider, that the US military is specifically set up to be governed by civilians.

Mark Lindner, email to the author, September 9, 2005 (Mark, where are you to tell me how to format a citation to an email in a blog post?)

My last message to him was in 2012, part of a group blast I sent out to announce the birth of my son. It bounced back: his email must have changed.

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