Endowment a fitting tribute to Norma Kobzina, remembered as ‘the Ultimate Librarian’

NORMA KOBZINA IS REMEMBERED as someone who was “warm,” “caring,” and “compassionate” — “exemplifying the best of librarianship, and of humanity.”

As a colleague aptly stated after her death in 2013, she was “the Ultimate Librarian.”

Norma Kobzina
Norma Kobzina was a librarian at UC Berkeley for more than 30 years. (Courtesy of John Kobzina)

After earning her Ph.D. in Spanish literature at Cornell University and teaching at a local college for eight years, Kobzina decided to change directions, enrolling in UC Berkeley’s program to become a Master of Library Science.

“She loved the subject matter and never turned back,” says John Kobzina, Norma’s widower, who met her at Cornell.

She started at Berkeley as a library assistant and went on to serve as the head of the Bioscience & Natural Resources Library. At the Library, she was known for many things, including her passion, and knack, for teaching, her emphasis on the importance of reference, and her development of the embedded librarian concept. She proudly showed off her impressive cookbook collection on tours.

After her death, a fund was established in her honor, with John’s contributions allowing it to reach endowment level. Because the fund is unrestricted for use by the Bioscience, Natural Resources & Public Health Library, the money can be funneled to where it’s needed, instead of languishing because it’s designated for a specific purpose. So far, the fund has been used for author events and a new center for student employees.

“It fills me with a great deal of happiness when I attend author events such as the recent one with (gene-editing pioneer) Jennifer Doudna and walk through the new student employees center knowing that this truly is a living memorial to Norma,” John Kobzina says. “There is always a smile on my face when I come to campus every year to add to the endowment for Norma’s fund.”