The Graduate Center Mourns the Passing of John Rothman, Archivist of Library and 'The New York Times'
Rothman launched The New York Times' Information Bank before shaping The Graduate Center's archive over 15 years as a volunteer.
The Graduate Center mourns the loss of John Rothman, who for 15 years volunteered as an archivist for the library, organizing close to five decades’ worth of Graduate Center presidential papers and other materials. Rothman died last week at the age of 95 after a stroke.
Before volunteering at The Graduate Center, Rothman had a long career at The New York Times, where he created a “revolutionary system,” as the Times described it in their obituary of Rothman, that gave subscribers access to long abstracts of articles from the Times and other publications, including The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Time, and Business Week.
Rothman launched the system, called The New York Times Information Bank, in 1972. Since 1946, he had worked for The New York Times Index, which provided summaries of articles from as far back as 1913 and indicated how to find the full articles on microfilm.
Born as Hans Rothmann in Berlin, Rothman and his parents were expelled from Germany in 1939 and moved to Brooklyn. Rothman went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Queens College and served in the army during World War II. He later received a master’s degree from New York University and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.
At The Graduate Center, where he volunteered from 2000 to 2015, Rothman was an architect of the digital archive and the library network, as well as a pioneer of the protocol that established computer interoperability, said Polly Thistlethwaite, professor and chief librarian at The Graduate Center.
“Rothman sought truth about war crimes,” Thistlethwaite said on Twitter. “He indexed the @nytimes. He championed the digital news database. He collaborated to make computers interoperable, networked. And he shaped the @GC_CUNY archive. What a remarkable archival life.”
Rothman talked about his work at The Graduate Center in a 2013 video. “What I like,” Rothman said, “is the challenge of doing the work here and trying to complete it before I disappear.”