UC Berkeley News


Peter Lyman

11 July 2007

Peter Lyman, a professor emeritus at the School of Information and a former university librarian, died July 2 at his Berkeley home. He was 66 and had battled brain cancer.

Peter Lyman(School of Information photo)

Lyman's legacy includes research on online information, ethnographic anal­yses of online social relationships and communities, and helping to bring university libraries into the digital era. He published extensively on technology transfer and institutional change, exploring the effects of information technologies on the forms and content of publishing, libraries, and research. He was one of the first scholars to work with computer companies and others to design information technology appropriate for research and teaching.

One of Lyman's most widely cited works is "How Much Information?" a 2004 study (undertaken with School of Information colleague Hal Varian) that tracked the staggering amount of information produced digitally in a year.

In 2005, Lyman became the director of the Digital Youth Project, a three-year collaborative investigation into how kids use digital media in their everyday lives - at home and in libraries, after-school programs, and public places. The goal of the project is to enhance the learning experiences of youth, and to help families and schools use digital media for education.

Lyman was born in San Francisco in 1940. He earned a B.A. in philosophy from Stanford University in 1962, his M.A. in political science from Berkeley in 1963, and his Ph.D. in political science from Stanford in 1972.

He was one of the founders of James Madison College, a residential college at Michigan State University with a public-policy focus, and was a faculty member there from 1967 to 1987. He also was a visiting professor at Stanford and UC Santa Cruz.

In 1987, Lyman moved to the University of Southern California, where he founded the Center for Scholarly Technology and served as its executive director. He also was associate dean for library technology at that university before becoming USC's university librarian in 1991. At USC, he helped envision and oversee the creation of a new, technologically advanced undergraduate library.

He returned to Berkeley in 1994, serving as the campus's seventh university librarian until 1998. He also joined the School of Information Management and Systems (now the School of Information) as a professor in 1994, becoming emeritus in 2006. During his career he served on the editorial boards of numerous academic journals relating to information technology and society as well as on the board of directors of Sage Publications, the Council on Library and Information Resources, the Art History Information Project at the Getty Trust, and the Internet Archive.

Lyman was passionately interested in and knew a great deal about Asian - especially Tibetan and Chinese - art and textiles. Matteo Bittanti, a postdoctoral researcher at the School of Information, recalled in an online post that Lyman loved Caravaggio, gelato, and good company. "He fought infinite battles against bureaucratic abominations," he wrote about Lyman, his former supervisor. "He was always calm and serene, yet strong and determined. Above all, he was a great human being."

Lyman is survived by his wife, Barrie Thorne, a Berkeley professor of gender and women's studies, and of sociology; a son, Andrew Thorne-Lyman of Rome, Italy; a daughter, Abigail Thorne-Lyman of Berkeley; twin grandsons just seven weeks old; and a sister, Cynthia Lyman of Kent, Wash.

The School of Information is planning a campus memorial service for early in the fall semester. Contributions to the newly established Peter Lyman Graduate Fellowship in New Media can be made to the UC Berkeley Foundation in care of the UC Berkeley Center for New Media, 390 Wurster Hall #1066.

- Kathleen Maclay

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