Atkinson worked at Northwestern University from 1977 until 1983 when he left to become an assistant university librarian for collection development at the University of Iowa. In 1988, he moved to Cornell University where he was an associate librarian for collections until his death.
Atkinson was named the 2003 Academic/Research Librarian of the Year by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). The "Ross Atkinson Lifetime Achievement Award" was established in 2007 by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS), another division of the ALA.
- "Library Leader Ross Atkinson Dies". American Library Association. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
- Sherrod, Stephanie (2003), "ACRL honors the 2003 award winners: A recognition of professional achievement", C&RL News 64(4)
- Fontana, Elizabeth (2003), "Ross Atkinson Is Academic/Research Librarian of the Year", Kaleidoscope 111(4):1-2
- The Ross Atkinson Lifetime Achievement Award
- Alan, Robert; MacEwan, Bonnie (2005), Community, Collaboration, and Collections: The Writings of Ross Atkinson, ISBN 978-0-8389-8361-4
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