Carlsbad, CA—Dona Dirlam, longtime director of GIA’s library and information center, retired August 25 after 38 years of service. Robert Weldon, left, manager of photography and visual communications for GIA since 2006, has been named to succeed her as director. Photo: Judy Colbert, GIA
Dirlam has long been recognized for her innovation and contributions to the industry. She was largely responsible for establishing and expanding the Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library and Information Center into the world’s leading resource center for gems, gemology and jewelry. She received the Outstanding Gemologist Award from the Association of Women Gemologists in 1989 and GIA’s Staff of the Year award in 1991. In 2004 she received GIA’s highest honor, the Richard T. Liddicoat Distinguished Achievement Award. In 2015 she received the Accredited Gemologists Association Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2016 was honored with the Women’s Jewelry Association’s Award for Excellence in Special Services. She has coauthored more than a dozen articles for GIA’s quarterly professional journal Gems & Gemology (G&G), five of which received a G&G Most Valuable Article award.
Over Dirlam’s tenure she expanded the collection to more than 57,000 books, 700 journal and magazine titles, 198,000 digital images, and 1,800 video recordings. With the addition of the 14,000-volume John & Marjorie Sinkankas Gemological Library in 1987 and the creation of the Cartier Rare Book Repository & Archives in 1998, she has helped to build the world’s largest library for information on gems and jewelry. Her commitment to providing greater access to GIA’s rare books led to a significant project to digitize the collection’s rarest holdings and make them available for free to the public and global gem industry. Since the project launched in 2015, more than 300 books have been scanned and are available at https://archive.org/details/gialibrary.
“Dona’s groundbreaking efforts on behalf of the Institute’s research, education, and outreach capabilities have kept GIA at the forefront of gemological scholarship,” said Susan Jacques, president and CEO of GIA.
“Cultivating our library’s collection and creating accessibility for the public has been the library’s main goal,” said Dirlam. “It takes dedicated individuals to handle the projects that come through our door and for that I am honored to have worked with a phenomenal team. What we have accomplished in the past decades will continue under the leadership of Robert Weldon.”
Dona Dirlam, here thumbing through volumes from GIA's rare book archives, built the Liddicoat Library and Information Center into the largest, most comprehensive resource of its type in the world. Photo: Michael Justice
Weldon, who assumed responsibilities as library director on Dirlam’s retirement, plans to carry on Dirlam’s legacy of expanding GIA’s collection and making it available to students, the trade and the public.
Dirlam holds a Master of Science degree in Geology and Geophysics from the University of Wisconsin (Madison). She began her career as an earth sciences teacher before following her passion for minerals and gems to GIA’s Santa Monica campus in 1979. Upon completion of her GIA Graduate Gemologist (GG) diploma, she joined the Institute as a staff gemologist and later was offered the opportunity to build the Institute’s library by Liddicoat himself. She began as a GIA research librarian in 1980 and became the director of the library in 1995. She also served as abstract editor of G&G from 1981-1994 and has given more than a hundred lectures on a variety of historical topics.
Weldon has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville). After receiving his GIA GG in 1987, Weldon spent three years working in the GIA library for Dona Dirlam. In 1990, he joined JCK magazine as colored gemstone editor; he later joined Professional Jeweler as senior writer. Since returning to GIA in 2006, his photographs and articles have been featured in numerous gemological, jewelry and consumer publications. He has authored or co-authored more than half dozen articles in G&G and his photographs have appeared on 31 of its covers.