February 2018

Returning to the Library

Nearly a year has passed since I went down the street to the provost’s office, and it’s great to be able to say that I’m back in the Library. I’m excited to be back with you and I’m looking forward to catching up with you on the work that’s been done.

I want to give a special thanks to Bill Mischo. I was confident that Bill was the right choice as acting dean of libraries, and I was pleased to see Bill serve in that role while I was gone. Bill was a powerful voice for the Library and he led with confidence and skill. Of course Bill also has immense capacity—I know no one who works harder than Bill—and great heart, both of which were assets to the Library in the year I was gone.

My sincere thanks to all of my Library colleagues as well. You have remained committed and engaged throughout this year. There were many questions that went through my mind when Chancellor Jones asked me to step into the interim provost position, but one of those questions was not whether the Library could thrive without me. We are a well-organized, skillful institution, and your commitment to supporting the University is without peer. Throughout the interim period, you have all continued to do important work about which I could always be proud, you kept the Library vital, and you did so with a degree of personal commitment that is admirable.

As I mentioned at our service awards celebration, the Library managed all of its tremendous accomplishments during a period marked by one of the greatest challenges in the University’s history. Last fiscal year the state shorted the University a stunning $189m. If that sounds like real money, it is: that sum represents the vast majority of our state funding and nearly 10% of the University’s total budget. During that period, while our Library lagged behind many of our peers in funding (e.g., we took a modest reduction when many saw collection budget increases), the impact of the reductions on our operations was negligible and our strength as a library was impressive. I want to thank each of you for the work you did in making that success possible.

While I missed being in the Library, the perspective I got while at Swanlund was valuable to me. Our administrative colleagues have great admiration for our fiscal management skills, our commitment to cost-effective stewardship, and our follow-through: when we say we’re going to take something on, we do it, and we do it well. The Library’s value is appreciated and embraced. Our role in academic processes, including and especially promotion and tenure, is highly regarded. I noticed this appreciation at all levels, but especially in the chancellor’s and provost’s offices, and the University System office from President Killeen and Vice President Barbara Wilson.

In concluding, I want to note that this is a time to be bold, to embrace what is great about our Library and our University, and to plan next steps—to look ahead and not back. I have begun to discuss ideas and priorities with the Executive Committee and Cabinet, and will be discussing these things with the Library more broadly in the coming weeks. For now, though, again, I’d like to say thank you—to Bill, to our Library leadership, and to everyone else for the outstanding work and care you’ve taken in the last year.

John Wilkin
The Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Dean of Libraries and University Librarian