From the Dean
September 22, 2023
As the September sun continues to shine brightly – but with the days growing shorter as autumn approaches – this is a time of transition on campus. Here and there, leaves on the trees are taking on a golden hue, and the wind that blows through the arboretum has a cool edge. And thousands of new students and faculty are arriving to join their colleagues at Western, with the promise that they will add immeasurably to the university community with their diverse experiences and academic specialties. It’s such an exciting time at Western!
This is also a time of transition within the Western Libraries. I am incredibly excited to begin my first academic year here, and I have been welcomed warmly to campus and Bellingham since beginning my tenure as Dean of Western Libraries on August 21. Western is a special place that encourages thinking across departmental boundaries, and one that centers the lived experience of students while placing a focus on actions toward accessibility, diversity, equity, and inclusion. As a lifelong learner with a professional background in libraries’ teaching & learning and student success, and following on my most recent roles in Libraries’ Research and Learning Services at the University of Washington in Seattle, I am honored to work with the personnel of the Western Libraries to build on past successes while looking forward together.
To begin this Dean’s Update, I wanted both to extend a note of gratitude to our Director of Collections Madeline Kelly for her exemplary interim leadership of the Libraries over the past academic year, and to acknowledge the excellent work of the Libraries’ administration team, especially interim Associate Dean Kate Cabe, and my Dean’s Advisory Group. Executing a search for a new Dean while continuing to support all Western Libraries’ users during pandemic-era campus life was a challenge, but one that was capably handled.
As we kick off the 2023-24 academic year, the Libraries is especially excited to welcome new students and faculty, and to welcome back others who took a break during the summer. The Libraries is your partner on campus in achieving your academic goals, and we play a variety of roles as a collaborator in both learning and research. Our onsite and online services and programming complement our circulating collections, special collections, and spaces – and you can learn a lot more about the Libraries’ offerings by visiting our Welcome for Fall 2023.
Over the last twelve months, several Libraries’ teams began working toward improvements that will benefit you this academic year:
- Using a trauma-informed model, the Tutoring Center (TC) evaluated and changed services to make students feel more welcome and to integrate study skills support, which will be offered by all staff. The TC is also planning to utilize endowment funding to make physical improvements, in consultation with users.
- The Collections division planned for a systematic review of portions of the Libraries’ print collections, beginning with a special focus on STEM disciplines, with a goal of both removing outdated materials and adding new titles. The result will be a fresher collection that is more relevant to Western’s current curricula.
- Recognizing the growing need for digitized primary sources in courses, the Archives & Special Collections staff has continued to add to the archival content available electronically through MABEL, a discovery system for Western’s unique content that contains collections focused on WWU and the Pacific Northwest region.
We are also excited about some new spaces and tools that we are offering this academic year:
- The Kitto Graduate Student Hub will open formally in October as a physical manifestation of an ongoing partnership between the Libraries and the Graduate School. The Hub creates a dedicated space for collaboration, consultation, and workshops geared toward graduate students’ success.
- The Libraries has launched a new tool to help all students locate best-fit study areas, collaboration spaces, and service points around our buildings. Find a Space @Western Libraries aims to demystify wayfinding and highlight a variety of resources, and the Find a Space tool is available for other departments and buildings interested in partnering with the Libraries to explore broader application at Western.
The Libraries remains dedicated to taking actions that advance Western’s ongoing commitment to accessibility, diversity, equity, and inclusion (ADEI), and building a more just university where all can thrive. As a critical intellectual and interdisciplinary crossroads, we want each member of the Western community to feel a sense of belonging in the Libraries. Among our ongoing ADEI work:
- The Libraries recently formed an Accessibility Coordination Group whose members will work with colleagues both inside and outside of the library to identify and make improvements to enhance accessibility in our processes and practices, in library spaces and signage, and in library communications.
- Our teaching teams continue to refine approaches in the classroom, to further integrate the lived experience of all students and to work toward fully accessible learning materials.
- The Libraries continues to explore ways to integrate ADEI action into all aspects of our work, particularly as we near the end of our present strategic plan and look forward to a next iteration. While continuing to build upon ongoing efforts, we acknowledge that we can and must do more to continue becoming a more accessible, diverse, welcoming, and just organization.
On behalf of the Libraries, I hope that you will get to know our services, collections, and programming this academic year, in addition to exploring deeper collaborations with the Libraries’ personnel who make it all happen. I’m looking forward to meeting many of you in the upcoming years, and, as the Dean, I plan to send out updates regularly to share the exciting work that the Libraries is engaged in. We’d love to hear from you too – check out the Western Libraries website for ways to contact us and stay in touch.
John Danneker, Dean of Libraries