University of Pittsburgh
December 7, 1999


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 7 -- To provide a forum for scholars and professionals to address issues relating to the human aspects of an increasingly technological society, the School of Information Sciences (SIS) at the University of Pittsburgh has established the Sara Fine Institute for Interpersonal Behavior and Technology.

Named for Sara Fine, professor emerita who taught at Pitt for 23 years, the Institute will sponsor an annual distinguished lecture series beginning in 2000, with speakers from information sciences, philosophy of science, psychology or other related fields addressing the connection between man and machine.

"Sara Fine, who is both a professor and licensed psychologist, focused her teaching and research in the areas of behavioral communication, the counseling aspects of library service, and uniting integrating technology with the behavioral sciences," said SIS Dean Toni Carbo. "This behavioral sciences theme expanded over the years, evolving from a focus on interpersonal relationships into a more comprehensive focus that includes an understanding of human-machine relationships and compatibility."

Throughout her career, Fine, who now lives in Israel and is on the faculty of the Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv, has been widely published and has conducted extensive research in areas including interpersonal and intellectual communications, human factors and technology, organizational behavior and management, and human information processing. Following her retirement in December, 1998, Fine's children, friends, and former students established an endowment at SIS totaling more than $250,000 to support the Institute, its activities, and initiatives.

"The Institute continues Dr. Fine's dedication toward bridging the gap between people and machines," said Carol Bleier, one of Fine's former students and contributor to the endowment. "Only by understanding real human issues can our increasingly complex technological environment be truly manageable."

Thomas Detre, former senior vice chancellor for the University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences, has been named chair of the Institute Advisory Committee, which will help select speakers and seminar and workshop topics.

"It is only fitting that such an institute be established in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh," said Carbo. "For more than 35 years, SIS has had a strong commitment to integrating people, technology, and knowledge for problem solving, decision making, and learning. The Institute will provide insights into this integration."

"Sara is, first and foremost, a counselor," said Christinger Tomer, chair of the Department of Library and Information Science at SIS. "From her perspective, librarians are counselors, too, especially in their capacity as reference librarians and as advisors to readers. What she tried to do in her role as an LIS educator was to identify and describe the common interests and problems of librarians and counselors, and fuse that knowledge and insight into a behaviorally-oriented model for educating librarians.

"The result served us well, because the model was the most distinguishing feature of our Master's program for most of the last quarter century."

Added Tomer, on another level, Fine was a "subversive."

"She looked at the services rendered by the information professionals and saw librarians with great skills in dealing with information problems, but little or no idea about how to deal with their clients," he said. "She elected to work from the inside to change that situation and improve the quality of library services. The evidence at hand suggests that she succeeded."

It is expected that the issues addressed by the Institute will interest other disciplines as well as the region's business and industry community with such themes as productivity, the design of technical systems to be human-compatible, and organization management.

"Recognizing that the nature of these issues change with time," said Carbo, "the Institute's vision will remain open and adaptable to reflect the critical issues of the moment. The Institute will provide an opportunity to explore the human factors related to technology through annual lectures and, later, workshops and seminars."