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A Note from the Dean

October 12, 2020

head shot portrait of person
Ivan Gaetz
Dean of Libraries

The University welcomed its new President, Ed Seidel, on July 1 and, on the same day, Anne Alexander as Interim Provost following the departure of Provost Kate Miller. The search for a permanent provost has begun with an expected date of appointment early summer, 2021. Along with the changes new leadership brings, the University now faces major budget reductions for the current fiscal year and likely for years to follow. With the other academic colleges and units of the University, UW Libraries regards these changes and challenges as opportunities to rethink needs, hopes and strategic planning for the future.  President Seidel has outlined four priorities for the next few years, including: (1) digital aspects of teaching, learning, research, scholarship, innovation and economic development; (2) entrepreneurship in the development of new revenue streams for the University, such as grants, gifts, corporate partnerships, etc., and support of economic development across the State; (3) interdisciplinary programs, centers, and positions for the campus; and (4) creating a more inclusive environment for the University based on principles of diversity and equity. Our UW Libraries team is rethinking our strategic plan in reference to these “pillars” for the future.

In the meantime, the following activities have garnered our attention this past summer:

“Covid” and All of That

Along with providing digital access to library resources over the spring and summer, our UW Libraries team developed a “curbside” contactless delivery system for physical materials.  This worked well and was much appreciated by the many who took advantage of this system. 

Anticipating the opening of campus, members of our User Services Division labored over the summer preparing spaces in Coe Library to meet requirements of safety and health. This involved moving hundreds of pieces of furniture to reduce the seating capacity in Coe from approx. 1,500 to 500, and installing pathway signs and guides, hand sanitizers and wipes.

UW developed a three-phased approach to the return of students, each of a two-week duration. Ramping up for the first phase of the return of students on August 24, UW Libraries actually opened the doors to all on August 3rd.  This allowed us to test the system we created and to tweak it as needed. By September 28, all students taking at least one in-person class had returned, and by that date we opened our branch libraries as well, the Geology Library and the Learning Resource Center in the College of Education.  We monitor closely the numbers of persons coming to the libraries as this helps us determine if health and safety measures can be maintained.

Thankfully, the University has developed a very extensive and aggressive testing program for all students and employees and, for those testing positive, immediate action is taken to isolate and contact trace. We are hopeful that this plan will keep campus open and safe until the week of Thanksgiving when we enter Phase 4 of the Campus Return Plan. At that time the campus reverts to online-only for final classes and exams, and UW Libraries will adjust its services accordingly.

Comings and Going

Over the spring and summer, we experienced some library staff and faculty transitions. We welcomed to our ranks Paula Martin, Assistant Dean for User Services, and Derrick Mason, filling the new Innovative Media and Learning Spaces Librarian position.

We were sad to say good-bye to librarians Hilary Baribeau, Dave Macaulay, Michelle Green and Yolanda Hood. Yolanda was the first librarian appointed as the Carol J. McMurry Librarian for Academic Excellence, a fully-endowed librarian position established by a major gift of the McMurry-Spieles family in 2019 and 2020.   

It was with great sadness we learned early September of the passing of long-serving Senior Library Assistant, Linda Waggener, who worked several of the past years in our Interlibrary Loan unit.  Linda’s lovely, detailed obituary may be found here.

Budget Cuts


UW Libraries joins other academic units, and indeed all operations of the University, in planning significant budget cuts for the current fiscal year and for the following years as well.  Since the last round of budget cuts in 2016-17 focused mainly on personnel lines across the campus, this time UW Libraries will focus primarily on collections and operations budgets.  If the collections budgets erode resources in a significant way, we will initiate discussions with our academic partners.  Our budget reductions will be strategic, keeping in view the long term vision and advancement of the University under the leadership of UW’s President and Provost.

Strategic Initiatives

Ensuring UW Libraries remains in step with UW’s developing strategic plan for the future, here are some key initiatives currently underway.

  1. Discovery: A UW Libraries team is assessing the tools of discovery of library resources and how these could be expanded and unified in a way that aggregates more, or all, of our resources and improves access for library users.

  2. Student Learning Commons: Given recent renovations on the first floor of Coe -- including reappointed classroom space, a pop-up meeting area, and the relocation of LeaRN and the Writing Center -- we are exploring with our building partners how Level One can continue to be redesigned to facilitate and enhance student learning experiences.

  3. Blockchain: President Seidel emphasizes the importance of University engagement in economic development in Wyoming. A specific interest emerging on campus pertains to Blockchain economics and its technological infrastructure, an interest also supported by Wyoming’s legislature. While opportunities for libraries to support economic development are extremely limited, we have formed a libraries working group to explore with campus Blockchain leaders if and how we could partner with them.

  4. Integrated Library Systems (ILS) Working Group: Our current ILS (Innovative Interfaces, Inc.) has undergone significant ownership and technological changes over the past couple of years.  Moving forward, we will assess our systems and our needs, and decide on new directions for library computing.  This past spring, we formed a working group (in tandem with a similar group of the State Library) to make recommendations by early 2021.

Needless to say, there is a lot going on in UW Libraries.  Our strength remains the incredibly talented and dedicated team of staff and faculty.  We also rely a great deal on, and equally appreciate, our UW Libraries Development Board, as well as our other amazing supporters.  Together we can handle the challenges and meet the opportunities that will advance UW Libraries and the University as a whole.

Thanks and best wishes,

Ivan Gaetz
Dean of Libraries

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