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Susan Lerdal remembered for her dedication to students, faculty, learning

March 23, 2010
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Susan Kay Lerdal

Susan Kay Lerdal, noted for her dedication, assistance and enthusiasm as former associate professor of librarianship in the Drake University Law School Library, died Saturday in Des Moines from complications of leukemia. She was 63.

Memorial services were held Wednesday, March 24, at Merle Hay Funeral Home, 4400 Merle Hay Road. Memories and photos may be shared on the funeral home's Web site.

A gathering of family and friends will be held March 28 in Deer Lodge, Mont., where Lerdal and her husband, John, were married. A native of Harlowton, Mont., Lerdal earned a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in public administration from the University of Montana, as well as a master's degree in library and information science from the University of Iowa.

Former colleagues remember Lerdal, who served on the Drake faculty from 2001-08, as helpful and effective in assisting both fellow faculty and students with legal research.

"Sue was an outspoken advocate for and an outstanding example of the power of lifelong learning," said Karen Wallace, reference librarian and professor of librarianship. "While at Drake, she tried to grasp every possible teachable moment to improve students' information literacy skills."

"Dedicated to continuous improvement, even in her retirement, she would still suggest information and other resources to strengthen our services. In fact, one of our most well-received new databases was added after Sue brought it to our attention in her retirement."

Lerdal's death came as a shock to everyone at the Law Library, said John Edwards, associate dean for information resources and technology.

"She was missed greatly when she retired in December 2008, so to lose her so soon thereafter is even more difficult to accept," Edwards said. "As I look at her photo, I am reminded of the vibrancy and determination she had for every task. She pushed herself and others to accomplish more than otherwise would have been possible.

"Every organization in which she worked valued her leadership and knew that Sue would accomplish all of the goals set for her and the group," Edwards added. "Her hard work earned the respect of her peers, plus faculty and students were often amazed at her reference skills."

Former Law School Dean David Walker, now the Dwight D. Opperman distinguished professor of law, described Lerdal as a wonderful faculty member and librarian.

"She took a huge interest in students, faculty and her work," Walker said. "She attended faculty meetings even into her retirement and always made suggestions for my research. She was just a solid, neat person who loved to help others."

Deborah Sulzbach, reference librarian and associate professor of librarianship, remembers Lerdal for her personality and spark.

"When I think of Sue, I always smile," Sulzbach said. "She was a vibrant, enthusiastic and loyal woman. She saw the humor in things and worked hard to rectify the inequities of life. She touched my life and she will be with me always. My life is brighter for having known her."

A strong advocate for library advancement, Lerdal served as president of the Montana Library Association and was an active member of professional library organizations both in Montana and Iowa.

In addition to her husband, John; survivors include her mother, Audrey Nissen; and many cousins, friends and colleagues.

Remembrances and memorial contributions may be made to the Montana Library Association or to the Iowa Library Association Foundation.