March 16, 2018

Remembering Ray Lyons

It is with great sadness that I report the untimely passing on May 14, 2017, of Ray Lyons, my collaborator in the creation of the Library Journal Index of Public Library Service and my coauthor for the annual November cover story on the nation’s Star Libraries.

As a statistician, systems analyst, and project manager, Ray served the library, health care, and newspaper industries. He earned an MLS degree from Kent State University, OH, where he won the Jesse H. Shera Award for scholarly writing, and an MPA from Ohio State University. In addition to LJ, he wrote for Evidence-Based Library and Information Practice, Library and Information Science Research, Public Libraries, and Public Library Quarterly. He also presented at American Library Association (ALA) and Association of Research Libraries conferences.

In his blog,, he shared the finer points of statistics, performance measurement, and data visualization, and offered an independent voice of constructive criticism calling for improved library measurement efforts.

I asked two colleagues who also knew Ray well and valued his contributions to the field to share their own thoughts about his loss.

Martha Kyrillidou of QualityMetrics recalls: “Ray brought great insights on the ways libraries can improve the quality and rigor of their evaluation activities. I urge you to read his ‘duck soup’ article and share in his wisdom. He is missed!”

Joe Matthews of JRM Consulting added: “I first met Ray at an ALA conference and was immediately struck by his knowledge of statistics but most important by his common sense approach to evaluation and assessment.  Ray always asserted that conducting a good analysis was not more difficult than a poor one, if we would just discuss what the data had to say—and no more.  Ray will be missed for his insights, knowledge, experience all of which he was more than willing to share in a kind and gentle manner.”

And finally, a few words of my own: While collaborating with Ray for the past decade on the Star Libraries/LJ Index project, I was privileged to work with one of the library community’s most knowledgeable statisticians and a passionate advocate for improving library performance measurement. Persistently, he worked to maintain high standards for library data and—at the same time—to promote circumspection in crafting the claims we base on such data. His wit, incisiveness, and collegiality will be missed.

If you wish to honor Ray’s memory, his family—sister Nancy Lyons Dye, brothers Richard Lyons and Kenneth Lyons, and their families—ask that you make a donation in his name to your favorite charity.

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