SU Libraries

Open forums to allow student input in the search for a new Dean of Libraries

A series of open forums will be held as part of the search for a new dean of the Syracuse University Libraries.

The forums, created and sponsored by a special search committee composed of students, staff and faculty, are designed to poll students on their vision for the libraries, their ideas for future opportunities and their desired leadership qualities in a dean of libraries. The first forum will be held Friday from 1–2 p.m. in the Hillyer Room in Bird Library.

The goal of the forums is to understand how students use the library, and then decide how to improve upon and add to that experience. Forums will also be held for faculty and staff.

Deborah Pellow, a professor in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and chair of the University Senate Committee on Libraries, said she thinks the forums are a great idea — the library needs new direction.

“We need a leader to bring in a new vision,” Pellow said. “The library is core to the enterprise of the university. It’s a community building, whether you’re talking about learning or doing research.”

Former SU Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric Spina put the committee together at the end of last semester. Its goal has been to agree on a manner of conducting the search process, said Jeffrey Stanton, chair of the search committee and interim dean of the School of Information Studies, in an email.

“The first order of business for the search committee has been to develop a consensus on the processes we plan to use — such as how we gather information from the campus — to conduct the search process,” Stanton said. “The open forums are a result of that consensus building process.”

Ultimately, the committee would like the new dean of libraries to reflect the needs of SU, and open forums are the perfect place for students to share their thoughts, Stanton said. Ideally, those who attend the forums will have a genuine interest in the SU libraries and how they can facilitate education and research at the university, he added.

The job of any dean is to create an environment where professionals can “do their best possible work in support of the campus mission,” Stanton said. He added that deans should also be knowledgeable as to the trajectory of their fields so they can better plan for the future.

In the case of the libraries, the search committee feels that the new dean should be a professional librarian with experience in research librarianship from a research institution, according to a February 2015 report submitted by Pellow on behalf of the Senate Committee on the Library.

The report also states that the new dean should be dedicated to providing the best services and amenities needed by faculty and students, both graduate and undergraduate, and should “offer a clear vision of what a research library of the 21st century should aim toward including strategies and methods for supporting teaching and scholarship.”

“What we need is someone who cares and understands librarianship. And we need somebody who’s got some kind of a history of success and some kind of vision,” Pellow said.

In order to push the libraries further, the leader of the library must be of equal status as the other deans, who facilitate a lot of “moving forward” in their respective colleges, Stanton said.

To revive the importance of libraries to the SU campus, those in charge of the libraries must be able to meet directly with those other leaders, including the provost. For this reason, the dean of libraries position was created, Stanton said.

“Some colleges have a person who is the ‘director’ of the library, and that arrangement can work well at a smaller institution,” he said. “At Syracuse University, however, a lot of the work of moving the university forward happens in the schools and colleges.”

Said Stanton: “For the leader of the library to have a seat at the table, he or she must be a peer with the other deans.”

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