A new era for Olin

The selection process to find a new director of Olin Library is in its final stages. Eight months after Jonathan Miller’s resignation, some prospective candidates for the empty position have already presented their cases at Rollins.

The finalists who have spoken at Rollins are Wenxian Zhang, the interim Olin Library director; Deborah Prosser, former dean of libraries at the University of North Georgia; and John Renaud, former assistant university librarian for Research Resources at the University of California, Irvine. The other finalists will speak in the upcoming weeks.

According to Susie Robertshaw, who is the Tutoring & Writing Center coordinator and a member of the search committee, the job of the new library director carries so much importance that Rollins has hired a search firm to help choose and contact candidates from across the country.

Jonathan Harwell, head of Collections and Systems, and another member of the search committee, states that “the search firm chooses candidates for preliminary interviews and for finalist interviews.”

Some of these finalists have begun to familiarize themselves with students, faculty, and staff through open forums and meetings. They have given presentations detailing their plans if hired as the new library director, and they answered questions from the faculty and staff in attendance. Many spoke informally with students on what changes they would like to see in the library.

The new library director has a multitude of challenges ahead. One of the most pressing issues is that of space, as Harwell explains: “The library needs to balance spaces for students to study quietly and to learn collaboratively, with spaces for collections and services.”

Our last library director brought many changes to Olin Library and the campus. One of the biggest changes was moving Accessibility Services from Mills to Olin Library. No doubt, similar changes may occur with the new library director since space is one of the biggest concerns.

Harwell is also concerned about the library’s collections. Many of the books in the library have not been used in over a decade. These books are marked with a green bookmark, indicating that the book is to be taken off the shelves and stored away. Hardly any of the print journals are used either, with the majority of these same journals having online databases. The library has also begun to obtain eBooks through Demand Driven Acquisitions. In short, the library obtains eBooks for free and only pays when students use them. This has reduced the need for print books as well.

The unused books and journals take up space and are economically inefficient. The new library director will have to figure out what to do with these unused books and journals and decide how to fill up the space that taking away these items will leave.

The problem with unused books and journals and lack of space is also related to the issue many libraries face in the digital age: how to stay relevant. With regards to the Olin Library, the library director has to allocate space in a way that helps fulfill students’ current needs for study and quiet time.

Another challenge for candidates coming from other colleges and universities, according to Robertshaw, would be understanding how a small liberal arts college operates and getting to know the students and faculty. Robertshaw notes that “as a small library, we need to make sure that students and faculty have access to as much as possible, whereas a large university might have a bigger collection on the shelves.”

The search for the new Olin Library director will continue until the best possible person is hired.

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