By Dateline staff
The Academic Federation customarily presents the James H. Meyer Distinguished Achievement Award during a dinner, which is especially fitting for this year’s recipient, librarian Axel Borg. He is, after all, being honored for his work, and his work has much to do with food and wine.
He is a subject specialist at Shields Library, in charge of building and maintaining the collections in viticulture and enology, food science and technology, nutrition, plant sciences, plant biology, plant pathology, microbiology, agronomy and general agriculture.
“For many enophiles and ‘foodies’ both locally and beyond, Axel has become the public face of UC Davis for scholarship in food and wine,” his librarian colleague Daniel Goldstein wrote in nominating Borg for the Meyer award, the federation’s highest honor. The award dinner is set for tonight (Nov. 10).
Meyer, while serving as chancellor from 1969 to 1987, initiated the organization that would become the Academic Federation, unique in the UC system, providing a forum for academic appointees who are not eligible for the Academic Senate.
Borg “feels deeply that the federation can and should realize former Chancellor Meyer’s vision,” Goldstein wrote. “To this end, he has, in many ways worked to make the federation a stronger, more vibrant institution.”
The Meyer award is given annually to one of the federation's own, from among a membership of more than 1,000 lecturers and adjunct professors, researchers and scientists, agronomists and Cooperative Extension specialists, academic administrators and program coordinators — and librarians like Borg, who works in the Biological and Agricultural Sciences Reference Department.
“Axel is a superb librarian,” wrote Goldstein, a subject specialist in Humanities, Social Sciences and Government Information Services.
Borg is best known for the university’s viticulture and enology collection, comprising some 29,000 volumes (representing monographic and serial holdings) — considered the finest such collection in the world, and certainly the one in the United States to have received a top rating of 5 from the Research Libraries Group.
‘A great combination’
“I usually say I’ve got the best job at the university, as far as I’m concerned,” Borg said in a 2009 interview with The Davis Enterprise. “Getting to work with books, getting to work with food and wine? What a great combination.”
He not only collects books, he has a hand in creating some of them, through his work with the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. “He is responsible for many of our significant publications,” said Clare Hasler-Lewis, the institute’s executive director, specifically noting Our Story, a timeline (1880-2008) published in conjunction with the grand opening of the RMI’s academic buildings.
She said Borg also has contributed significantly to the institute’s agricultural heritage series of books.
Hasler-Lewis said Borg’s “breadth of knowledge is amazing, particularly in the areas of wine and food, and he has facilitated many contacts between our institute and key individuals in the literary world.”
“We are proud of our long association with Mr. Borg and celebrate his contributions and service to the university and the greater community and look forward to our continued partnership with him.”
Goldstein’s nomination also took note of Borg’s “invaluable bibliographies” of internationally published literature on topics ranging from wine to chocolate (co-authored with Adam Siegel).
“Even in the digital age, bibliographies like these are essential research tools, enabling scholars around the world to discover valuable sources that would likely otherwise go unnoticed,” Goldstein wrote.
Instructing faculty and students
In addition to producing bibliographies and building collections, Borg provides specialized reference and bibliographic instruction to faculty, graduate students and undergraduates in how best to use these materials.
Over the course of a year, according to Goldstein, Borg teaches upwards of 700 undergraduates, several dozen graduate students and 40 to 50 faculty members in formal instruction sessions. Additionally, every year he assists hundreds of UC Davis students, staff and faculty on an individual basis.
“Axel is regarded as a leader among librarians,” states the program for tonight’s dinner. “Others have continually sought his advice, support and guidance throughout the challenges faced by the library in recent years.
“His tireless efforts to focus campus attention on the condition of the library in great part led to the 2008 Library in Crisis report of the Senate Task Force on the Library, and to the formation in 2010 of the Faculty Senate and Campus Administration Special Task Force on the Future of the University Library.
“His promotion of the library and consistent voice for better financial support has heightened awareness and recognition of the importance of the library and its collections.”
Dedicated service to the federation
His devotion to the university is further expressed through years of dedicated service to the Academic Federation. His efforts to strengthen the federation and increase its vibrancy reflect his conviction that the organization makes a positive difference at UC Davis.
In particular, as a long-standing member of the federation’s Executive Council and Committee on Committees, he encourages junior Academic Federation members to become active in the organization.
“He is exceptionally insightful in identifying individuals’ strengths and steering them toward campus service on committees that complement their interests and expertise,” the program states.
“Academic Federation members and Academic Senate faculty, as well as campus administrators, turn to Axel for his rich institutional memory and wisdom. He is an invaluable resource.
“His deep knowledge of campus issues, his absolute dedication to his work as a librarian, and his outstanding ability to work with people across all academic paths at the university exemplify his commitment to campus and community.”