Former Oviatt Library Dean Norman Tanis dies

Antoine Abou-Diwan

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Norman Tanis, former dean of the Oviatt Library has died.  He was 81.

Tanis died Nov. 28 at TLC Hospice in Moorpark from complications with Alzheimer’s disease, said his daughter, Laura Tanis.

Tanis began working at CSUN in 1969 as director of the library and was soon named dean.

He launched the Oviatt Library’s Special Collections and Archives in 1973, a repository of rare books and manuscripts, available to the CSUN community for research.

“He was a renaissance man,” said Terri Tanis, his wife.  “He had three master’s degrees, in library science, education and history.”

The special collections was just one of his many interests, she said.  Tanis started the Bibliographic Society at CSUN.

Tanis was a consummate bibliophile.  His interest in books and printing took him into publishing.  He established Santa Susana Press in 1975, CSUN’s publishing imprint that specialized in limited-run, hand-bound books by local writers and artists.

“The book itself is the art,” said Cindy Ventuleth, director of development at the Oviatt Library.

Tanis also started the Printing Chapel.  For one night a week, people could practice old-fashioned printing methods utilizing three presses owned by CSUN.

“CSUN meant a lot to him,” said his daughter.  “Building the library for the students was important to him.”

Tanis may be best known as for conceiving and implementing the Oviatt Library’s Automated Storage Retrieval System (ASRS).  The ASRS is a robotic book retrieval system that radically reduced the amount of time it takes to retrieve an item from the archives and eliminated the need for students to go into the archives.

Tanis was demoted to the library reference desk in 1991 after it was discovered he had been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on rare books, the Los Angeles Times reported.  He used soft money that he had discretion to use, Terri said.  Tanis retired that year and was later named professor emeritus, Terri added.

Norman Tanis is survived by his wife, Terri Tanis, his two daughters Kathryn and Laura, and grandson, Raven Tanis-Baumann.