On Jan. 10, UR announced its decision to appoint Associate Dean of River Campus Libraries and Public Services and Collection Development Susan Gibbons as the new Vice Provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of River Campus Libraries.
Current Dean of River Campus Libraries Ronald Dow is retiring after 11 years of work that revolutionized the libraries at UR. During his tenure, he oversaw many projects, ranging from the opening of Gleason Library to the renovation of such spaces as the Welles-Brown Room.
Dow is also commended for developing a positive relationship between the library and the UR community, seeking to build a resource that best benefits the University.
“I focused on making the library more student centric,” Dow said. “Today we spend a lot of time working with students. Student opinion counts for a lot. We actually change who we are based on what we learn from students.”
According to Dow, Gibbons is an acclaimed librarian within the UR and international community, making her an ideal successor.
“In some ways, it was a very obvious choice,” he said.
UR President Joel Seligman seconded Dow’s comments.
“She’s brilliant, has a great deal of energy and had tremendous support from everyone with whom we spoke,” Seligman said. “She’s nationally known as a leader in library science. She’s published, and her work is persuasive and articulate.”
Gibbons noted that her experience with River Campus Libraries made her a viable candidate.
“I have worked with UR libraries for the past seven years,” Gibbons said. “I bring to the job what it is like working with the UR community. There is not that learning curve of working with a new environment. It means we’re not going to miss a step.”
She also described the some projects in which she participates.
Gibbons has worked closely with Information Analyst Nancy Foster to determine how the library might better serve the community. Their studies focused on student input.
“We did a two-year study on undergraduate students, working with volunteers to see where they went on campus for a day, to find out what technology they carried with them,” Gibbons said. “As part of this larger study, we were able to work with students to discover what their ideal study space would be like.”
This “ideal study space” ultimately became Gleason Library. Gibbons explained how students were solicited for drawings that were then passed on to the architects. After the architects’ plans were drawn up, students had the opportunity to offer suggestions for the final look of Gleason Library.
“We really wanted our libraries to match up with student lifestyle,” Gibbons said.
CoURse Resources is another initiative spearheaded by Gibbons. On each student’s Blackboard Web site, there is a library course guide that is specific to the classes for which a student is registered. This new online database offers students immediate resources directly related to their studies.
Currently, Gibbons is helping complete a two-year study on a group of graduate students to find ways to better serve that particular population. She is also surveying other students to see how the library Web site design may be made more accessible for students.
Gibbons noted that her post as Vice Provost and Dean of River Campus Libraries differs in a significant way from Dow’s because her position also gives her a seat in the President’s cabinet.
“I can make sure I understand the direction of the University and make sure the library is participating in the best way we can,” Gibbons said.
Seligman also commented on the additional responsibility, explaining why he felt she is needed in the cabinet.
“We are trying to have a central body where we can share information with each other,” he said. “The library is a very important component of UR, and I thought it would be useful for her to join at this time.”
Looking forward to her new role, Gibbons spoke about the importance of improving UR libraries.
“The next generation of students is so different from what we experienced,”she said.
“If libraries want to be viable for the future, we need to look at the new technology and see how it is a part of student lives and academic practices.”
Seligman showed high regard for such vision.
“She brings everything we could dream to the position,” he said.
Squires is a member of the class of 2010.