University of Rochester

Susan Gibbons Named Dean of River Campus Libraries

January 10, 2008

Susan Gibbons has been named Vice Provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of River Campus Libraries at the University of Rochester, effective March 1.

She succeeds Ronald F. Dow, who will step down March 1 after 11 years as dean.

"Susan is the right person to lead the University of Rochester's River Campus libraries into the 21st century," said University President Joel Seligman. "She is a national leader in assessing and improving the way students use libraries and research materials and she enhanced that reputation through the design process that led to the creation of the Gleason Library. With that project, the library tapped our finest resource–our students–to create a collaborative study space of their own making."

Gibbons was appointed associate dean for public service and collections development in 2004, and since then she and Dow have worked closely together on a number of projects that renewed the relevance of the campus' libraries in the face of the Internet and digitally formatted research resources.

During his tenure, Dow transformed Rush Rhees Library into a campus hub with vastly improved access to its collections. In the late 1990s, he led the transition from a paper card catalog to the Voyager online catalog, making the University of Rochester the first library in the country to use that system.

Dow built programs and collections designed specifically for the students–especially undergraduates–and faculty at the University of Rochester. He focused the library's acquisitions on the coursework happening on campus and the research interests of the University's faculty.

He also spearheaded numerous renovations to Rush Rhees Library during his tenure. The Martin E. Messinger Periodical Reading Room, the Welles-Brown Room, the Great Hall, and the Roger B. Friedlander Lobby were all remodeled, and the Hawkins-Carlson Room and the Gleason Library, a $5 million interactive study space, were created out of underutilized spaces in Rush Rhees Library.

The Gleason Library, completed this fall, uses many elements of student designs thanks to an initiative started under Gibbons and led by the library's anthropologist. Using several anthropological methods, the library staff studied the way students use the library's physical and technological resources in their research. Those findings were used to change the library's Web site, and the way librarians interact with students, helping to fulfill Dow's vision of better serving undergraduates. The library staff also used its new method of collecting information from students to gather design ideas for the Gleason Library.

Gibbons has taken the reins on Dow's user-based philosophy and it has spurred another anthropological study, this time on graduate students, as well as a variety of software and technological developments meant to make data navigation and storage easier. Among them are UR Research, an institutional repository developed for faculty, researchers, and graduate student users; and CoURse Resources, a database of major library resources and course offerings that generates a collection of links to the best print and electronic library resources for any course.

Gibbons–one of eight "up-and-coming" librarians featured in an October 2007 story in The Chronicle of Higher Education about the future of libraries–speaks around the globe to librarians and university administrators interested in the anthropological methods in use at the University of Rochester and emerging library technologies. In 2007 she co-edited a book, Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester, on the process. She also authored The Academic Library and the Net Gen Student: Making the Connections, last year.

University Provost Ralph Kuncl emphasized how much Gibbons' zeal for innovation benefits both the University of Rochester and the broader academic community.

"Susan is a great new addition to our leadership team," Kuncl said. "She and other library staff are helping to create new technologies that are improving the way library users interact with academic libraries on the University of Rochester campus and beyond."

Kuncl applauded the years of work that Dow spent improving both the buildings and service of the campus' library system, noting that students now flock to the library despite the ease of researching online.

"Under Ron's guidance, Rush Rhees Library has returned to its rightful position as the heart of the college, and all of the campus' libraries are enjoying a resurgence of use by our students and faculty," Kuncl said.

Gibbons has risen steadily through the ranks of the library since September 2000 when she joined the staff as part-time employee, who evaluated and recommended institutional repository software for an upcoming library transition. From there she was promoted to manage the implementation process, and eventually to digital initiatives librarian. Two years later, she was appointed to director of the Digital Library Initiatives project and in 2004 she was named associate dean.

Before coming to the University of Rochester, Gibbons was an audiovisual librarian at St. John Fisher College. She received master's degrees in library science and history from Indiana University at Bloomington in 1995. In 2002 she received a master's degree in business administration from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.