Richard (Dick) J. Sorensen was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame at the Wisconsin Library Association Conference in Wisconsin Dells on October 10, 2019.
Sorensen was the school library media consultant/supervisor at the
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) from 1972 until his retirement in 2001. He
was a member of the Instructional Media and Technology Team, Division for Libraries,
Technology, and Community Learning. In his capacity as consultant for almost three decades,
Sorensen provided leadership for many aspects of librarianship, including the certification of
library media specialists, the role of school libraries in library networks, funding for school
libraries, facilities planning, the collaborative role of library media specialists in instruction, and
school/public library relationships.
Particularly noteworthy was Sorensen’s leadership in the certification of school library
media specialists. The separate school library and audiovisual fields evolved/overlapped during
the 1970s and 1980s, creating a particularly difficult and challenging period for the profession in
terms of roles and appropriate licenses. Sorensen provided leadership for the taskforce that was
appointed by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The instructional media certification
requirements resulting from this work continue to form a foundation for library/media licensing.
Sorensen was recognized in 1981 when he was awarded the Wisconsin Library Association’s
Special Service Award for “exceptional service to the library profession.”
Sorensen served as the DPI liaison to the Wisconsin Library Association’s School
Library Division for decades. In this capacity, he attended division board meetings, sharing
insights relating to the status and needs of the school library media professional. He was a
presenter at numerous library and education conferences in the state, including the Wisconsin
Library Association, the Wisconsin Educational Media Association, and the Governor’s
Wisconsin Educational Technology Conference. Sorensen also provided many workshops for
schools, school districts, and Cooperative Educational Service Agencies (CESAs).
Sorensen’s school library media influence could be seen at the national level as well. He
served as a member of the National Commision Task Force on the Role of the School Library
Media Program in Library Networks. He authored “The Place of School Libraries/Media Centers
in Library Networks,” published in Library Acquisitions: Practice and Theory. Sorensen served
as a member of the Board of Directors, American Association for School Librarians and was one
of its regional directors. He also chaired the American Library Association’s Interdivisional
Committee on the Role of School Library Media Programs in Networking.
Sorensen was an active contributor to the professional literature of librarianship. He
regularly published in DPI publications, Wisconsin Library Bulletin (former journal of the library
division) and Channel (newsletter of the Division for Libraries, Technology, and Community
Learning). He wrote articles for state library media and technology newsletters and journals in
Wisconsin and elsewhere. Sorensen provided special DPI publications over the years such as
the status of school library media programs, designing schools to accommodate technology,
and he contributed to guidelines on combined school and public libraries for decision-making.
Sorensen spent many years traveling Wisconsin, visiting school libraries all over the
state. He was a familiar, welcome face in northern Wisconsin, where he regularly traveled,
visiting K-12 districts where library media programs were often headed by a single library media
specialist. He impacted school library programs throughout the state, often working with just one
librarian at a time. Alice Sturzl, school/public librarian in Laona, Wisconsin recalls: “I was in awe
of the fact that this DPI consultant was interested in what was happening here in the North
Woods, in addition to being willing to work with us to make sure that we had the access that
other parts of the state had.” Sturzl, former WLA president and WLA multi-award winner, also
credits Sorensen with being instrumental in her WLA leadership development.
Sorensen contributed to higher education certification programs throughout the state,
interpreting certification requirements and providing lectures in school library media
Sorensen was born in 1935 in Madison, WI. He was an English teacher at Verona High
School from 1960 – 69. He was librarian at the high school from 1969 – 72 until he joined the
Department of Public Instruction. Sorensen received his master’s degree in librarianship from
the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1970.
Sorensen was always a highly committed, caring professional who was well known for
his knowledge, dedication, and quiet diplomacy. In 2000, Sorensen was selected for the Award
of Excellence by the Wisconsin Educational Media Association for “lifetime accomplishments
and significant contributions to the media profession.”