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Mary Ann Mavrinac new president of the Association of Research Libraries

October 5, 2017
Mary Ann Mavrinac

Mary Ann Mavrinac, the University’s vice provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of University of Rochester Libraries. (University of Rochester photo / Marc Bollmann)

Mary Ann Mavrinac, the University’s vice provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of University of Rochester Libraries, has started her term as the new president of the Association of Research Libraries. The ARL represents 125 leading research libraries in the United States and Canada.

In her new role, Mavrinac supports the nonprofit association’s mission of influencing the changing environment of scholarly communication and public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. The ARL’s aim is to transition the research library from its role as a knowledge service provider within a single university to become a collaborative partner within a broader ecosystem of higher education. Part of that, Mavrinac says, is to strengthen international partnerships through the International Alliance of Research Library Associations and to harness the power of the collective.

“It’s truly an honor to be recognized by one’s peers,” says Mavrinac of her election, which makes her the first Rochester library director to become ARL president. Prior to her arrival in Rochester in 2012, the Canadian native served for eleven years as the chief librarian at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

Of course, libraries have undergone dramatic changes in the digital age, Mavrinac notes. Once primarily focused on the end products of research—the acquisition, cataloguing, discovery, and preservation of scholarly content, books and journals—their roles have significantly broadened.

“While these activities continue,” Mavrinac says, “we are now heavily engaged upstream in the creation of knowledge, supporting student learning, and in the lifecycle of scholarly communications.” That means activities such as data management and curation, digital scholarship, information literacy, experiential learning, collaborative, technology-rich learning spaces, scholarly publishing, and digital preservation.

Libraries have become a kind of dot connector: “They used to be storage, a warehouse medium with user spaces—and now we’re a convergence space, connecting the content,” Marvinac explains. “When things are electronic, students may not necessarily know what’s available. When you walk into the stacks, you can see the books—you may not know which ones you need, but there they are, and you’re probably pretty sure you can find the right ones with some help.”

Meanwhile, Mavrinac’s new role at the ARL ensures the University remains an important participant in important discussions and initiatives that will affect research libraries across North America.

“Dean Mavrinac’s appointment serves as a clear indication of the leadership that she brings to the profession,” says Robert Clark, provost and senior vice president for research.

The University of Rochester Libraries, an inaugural member of the ARL, has a distinguished history of creating innovative services, according to Mavrinac. One of the most recent is a collaboration with four other research libraries in the nation and ARL as part of the Digital Scholarship Institute in order to train library professionals in providing support for digital scholarship and digital humanistic research. The Rochester Libraries are also renowned for their Seward Family digital archive, a collaboration with Thomas Slaughter, the Arthur R. Miller Professor of History, which explores new pedagogical methods for experiential learning and student-driven research.

The latest planned addition to University Libraries is the Barbara J. Burger iZone, a collaborative, technology-rich space. With construction slated to start in January, iZone will provide students with programs, services, and resources to explore their ideas and develop innovative projects for social, cultural, community, and economic benefit.

To Mavrinac it’s a classic idea in a new form: “basically a 21st-century version of the Alexandrian library, where scholars gathered to discuss ideas, use scholarly content, work with library professionals, and create knowledge.”

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