Barbara Potts Semonche passed away at home on May 13th. She was born in Des Moines, Iowa on October 27, 1932. She was graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.S. degree in Speech Pathology in 1956. In June 1962 she married John E. Semonche and moved to Chapel Hill, NC, resigning her position as a teacher of deaf children in an Evanston, Illinois public school. After some work as a speech therapist and a very special year as a fourth grade teacher in Chapel Hill, she earned a M.A. in Special Education at UNC-CH in 1967. She then worked as a language specialist at the Franklin Porter Graham Child Development Center until 1974 when she entered the School of Library Science at UNC-CH. In 1976 she earned a M.L.S. degree . (In 1998 she gave the School’s commencement address and was made a Distinguished Alumna.) With the degree she began her last career, the one in which she flourished. Seeking a position in an area filled with qualified candidates, she created her own when she convinced the Durham Herald that the paper needed a library. She then built a model library that she headed until 199 when she left to turn the UNC School of Journalism’s reading room into a working library. There she created an Internet discussion site, called NewsLib for news researchers that she headed from 1993 to 2006. It became an indispensable source for more than a thousand news researchers and brought Barbara both national and international notice. When she retired from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2009, the Internet was filled with accolades, including one that lamented her retirement, calling her “champion, heroine, inspiration, and more to many news librarians around the world.”
During her career as a librarian (a professional designation she proudly wore when others were seeking more glamorous appellations), she was active in the Special Libraries Association (SLA). Among other offices and positions held, she was the chair of the planning committee for the professional organization’s San Francisco conference in 1983, chair of the News Division and editor of the News Library Bulletin. Barbara received almost every accolade SLA awarded from being made a Fellow in 1995 to being elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.
In addition to writing numerous articles and making speeches here and abroad, she edited News Media Libraries: A Management Handbook (1993), which despite its age is still widely consulted. In 1996 Barbara received The Freedom Forum/Special Libraries Association Fellowship to travel to Romania and Poland to train librarians in the use of the Internet. In the Spring of 2001 she joined her husband for a semester in Budapest, Hungary to work with the Freedom Forum’s Center for Independent Journalism. And in July 2004 she was selected as a Knight Journalism Fellow to attend a week-long seminar in Salzburg, Austria.
Her warmth and welcoming manner will be missed by many. She is survived by her husband, John E. (Jack) Semonche , daughter, Laura Semonche Jones, son-in-law Robert N. Jones, sister-in-law Daria Primerano, and nieces and nephews. Her family, friends and colleagues are invited to a Remembrance Celebration at the family home on 2650 University Drive, Durham, NC from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, 2015. .
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