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Reception June 16: Longtime head of health library retires

By Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries

Bob-Pringle-in-hat-webSPOKANE, Wash. – Bob Pringle, nursing and pharmacy librarian and director of Washington State University’s Spokane Academic Library, retires July 1 after 35 years at WSU. A reception will be 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday, June 16, in the Spokane Academic Center 501.

The library serves the WSU colleges of nursing, pharmacy and medicine, as well as Eastern Washington University health and business programs.

“One high point has been working with, and for, an array of amazingly competent nurses,” Pringle said. “They challenged me to meet their needs for information, instruction and help. They gave me the chance to work with highly motivated, caring students who ask really hard questions, both for content and for my ability to help find answers.

“Helping EWU and WSU folks come together to support all our students is another high point,” he said. “I think the library may be the best example on campus of cooperation and collaboration between the universities, and I’m glad I helped it become that.”

Mid-career librarian

Pringle, the oldest of seven “Air Force brats,” grew up in Japan and all over the United States. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 1966 and completed the Signal Officer Candidate School at Fort Gordon, Ga., in 1967. He served as an Army communications officer for 11 years, stationed in Panama, Vietnam, Turkey and Fort Lewis, Wash.

Pringle in the early 1980s, shortly after arriving at WSU. (Photos courtesy of WSU College of Nursing)

He married his wife, Martha, in 1973. Wishing to stay close to her and their four sons, he left active duty and attended University of Washington for his master’s in library science, earned in 1978.

“I took some tests and found what I liked best was helping people find and interpret information to make good decisions,” Pringle said. “So librarian it was.”

‘Genuinely caring and informed resource’

He became head librarian at the former WSU Intercollegiate Center for Nursing Education in Spokane in 1980. Colleagues note his sincere interest in assisting faculty and students to be successful academics.

Pringle with staff members of the former WSU Intercollegiate Center for Nursing Education: Nancy Wagner, left, Jeanne Wagner, Mary Wood, Leslie Liddle, Babs Hachey, Carol Alderman and Pringle.

“Bob was a ready and capable resource to me for manuscript development, research assistance and student guidance,” said Jo Ann Dotson, WSU College of Nursing assistant professor. “He has assisted many of my graduate and undergraduate students as well, and they consistently reported also finding him to be a genuinely caring and informed resource.”

Pringle proved just as helpful when Dotson coordinated several study tours to welcome Japanese nursing students and faculty from Iwate Prefectural University. He showed the visitors around, “gracefully managing the translators and throngs trooping through the library,” Dotson said.

Promoting medical librarianship

Other peers collaborated with Pringle to promote health sciences librarianship in professional organizations, both nationally with the Medical Library Association (MLA) and regionally through the Inland Northwest Council of Libraries (INCOL) and Inland Northwest Health Sciences Libraries (INWHSL).

He and fellow WSU retiree Vicki Croft joined INWHSL as founding members from WSU in 1988. Pringle quickly assumed leadership roles as continuing education committee chair and treasurer, both of which he holds today.

He submitted grant applications and publicized the group’s continuing education classes, Croft said, and helped develop a directory of INWHSL libraries, services and eligible users, whether hospital personnel or the public.

“Bob is an amazing wealth of information and a great friend,” said Gail Fielding, a Whitworth University retiree who served with Pringle on the INWHSL.

The hard questions

For all his activity with professional library associations, Pringle said his first love is reference service: meeting with individuals and small groups to answer their information needs. In the health sciences, finding those answers isn’t straightforward.

He learned that future nurses and pharmacists generally ask about a specific category of client with a specific health issue and a specific treatment or complication – and they want the answers in one research article. But that’s not the way it works; for example:

“Librarians have to explain that you get information about overweight men over 70 years old with congestive heart failure in one article, the ability of long-term smokers of either gender to stop smoking in another, and the effect that smoking while on oxygen supplementation might have on safety and the effectiveness of the intervention in still another,” he said.

“The students have to figure out if they can pull that together to make a care recommendation,” he said. “It’s common for me to tell them they will likely have to write that article, if they want it in one place.”


Bob Pringle, WSU Spokane Academic Library director, 509-368-6973,
Nella Letizia, WSU Libraries public relations/communication coordinator, 509-335-6744,



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