Cover photo for John Jewell's Obituary
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1940 John 2017

John Jewell

May 13, 1940 — August 10, 2017

John H Jewell passed away on August 10, 2017 at the age of 77.  Born on May 13, 1940, to Jack H and Corrine Jewell, John was raised from the age of 11 by his grandparents, Ralph and Mamie Fye, in Garden City, Kansas.  From his grandparents, the support of the Garden City community, and his active participation in 4-H there, he learned many of the values and leadership skills that influenced him throughout his life and career.  Summer and holiday visits in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his cousins gave him a warm sense of family.  Attending the University of Kansas, he excelled academically.  There, he met Carol Thompson, whom he married and who became his lifetime companion of 56 years.

A lover of libraries from childhood, John was delighted to find that it could be possible to make a career of that love. He got his first taste as a summer library trainee at the Stockton library, where James Coping, his mentor, taught him the joys of library reference work and introduced him to Libraries of the Future by JCR Licklider, a book which excited and inspired him. During the next two years, he alternated working at the Fresno County Public Library as a trainee and attending the University of Denver to earn his Library degree.  After receiving his degree, he joined the reference department of the Fresno Library, eventually becoming Principal Librarian for Reference Services. While in that position, he worked with many projects aimed toward making information available to people of all parts of the community, including encouraging members of the Reference Department in projects with the Japanese and Hispanic communities, and leading in cooperating with the Department of Social Services to form the Fresno County Information and Referral Network

A Christmas gift of a TRS 80 model I computer marked a turning point in his career.  At first computers were a hobby, and with a small group of fellow enthusiasts he excitedly explored the possibilities of the new and rapidly-changing technology. But computers gradually became a part of his work in Fresno.  The predictions he had read about in Libraries of the Future became more and more real, making possible such projects as using microcomputer databases and telecommunications to improve reference service to patrons of rural libraries. From this point in his career, libraries and computers were intertwined.

The family moved to Davis in 1986 when John was hired by the California State library as its first Library Microcomputer Specialist to consult on the implementation of microcomputers in the library and train State library and many county library staff members in the use of microcomputer applications.  John's dedication, leadership, and positive outlook gained many friends and admirers during his career at the State Library. He was also known for his ability to create and manage team based projects. He served as the head of the State Information and Reference Center for two years before becoming Assistant Director for Information Services at the newly created California Research Bureau. He developed Studies in the News, a service to provide the State Legislature and other State leaders current information related to topics of public policy. He also led an interagency team to create the first California Home Page.

At the end of 2006, John retired from the State Library as Chief of State Library Services, where he had directed and developed staff that dealt with the collections and services to State government and the public.  He had a leadership role in the State’s portal and e-Services efforts and was chair of an interagency working group for developing policies and guidelines for the State Chief Information Officer.

After retirement, working part-time as a retired annuitant at the California Department of Rehabilitation, he served as staff to the Enterprise Digital Accessibility Committee to help make electronic information from State government agencies meet accessibility needs for all.

John was a voracious reader.  He liked reading history, science fiction, math, and physics.  In the last 20 years, John and Carol enjoyed traveling, doing repeated home exchanges with a woman who lived in Scotland, attending international library conferences, and going to India with a group from Davis United Methodist Church.  Whether enjoying the Northern California coast, exploring around Davis, or traveling abroad, he took thousands of photographs which he loaded onto his computer to scroll as his screen saver, providing hours of enjoyment and memories as he and Carol watched them.

John leaves behind a small but cherished family:  his wife Carol Jewell, his daughter Teresa Jewell and son-in-law Jonathan Fingold, and his three cousins, Ann Watkins, Carl Fye, and Gary Miller.

A Celebration of Life will be held at 5:00 pm on Saturday, September 9, in the Davis United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall.  In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be sent to the California State Library Foundation or the Sacramento Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of John Jewell, please visit our flower store.


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