The Library is delighted to welcome Elaine Westbrooks as University librarian and vice provost for University Libraries. Her first day on the job was August 15, 2017.
As she prepares to lead the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s system of ten libraries, with a staff of more than 300, Westbrooks shared a few thoughts about the job, her background, and the work of libraries.
What attracted you to UNC and to the position of University librarian?
UNC has a strong reputation as a first-class university with abundant talent and aspirations to be better and have a significant impact on the state, the region, and the world. In addition, I identify strongly with the public mission of UNC and believe that I can and will make a difference here. Moreover, it was apparent to me that the Library has a talented staff, world-class collections, and is beloved by the majority of students, faculty, and staff whom I encountered. Great universities have great libraries—who would not want to become a part of UNC?
How has your career prepared you for this position?
After holding positions at four other Research I universities (Pittsburgh, Cornell, Nebraska, Michigan), there was no doubt in my mind that I was ready to assume a more challenging role as a university librarian. I have had the great fortune of having great managers and mentors who have helped me tremendously throughout my career—providing me with opportunities, training, and the latitude to make mistakes, experiment, and learn by doing. Furthermore, I got to see and experience in four different ways how a library’s core operations (such as technical services) are structured, funded, developed, improved, and sustained. It is important to have a strong understanding of the work of academic research libraries, because ultimately you will need to change something—whether it’s a process, policy, or procedure—or to create a new service.
What is one thing that you are looking forward to at Carolina?
I am looking forward to getting out on campus and bragging about how awesome the Library is. This is something that comes easily to me and something that I never get tired of. I can’t wait to deepen partnerships with a variety of units across campus, such as the UNC Press and the research office. I want to build connections before I need them and influence how decisions are made on this campus.
What is one thing that you would like everyone to know about libraries?
Libraries are essential to society. Preserving human knowledge is our core mission—whether it is scholarly research, forms of social media, research data, or literature. Because of our commitment to this mission, we enable scholarship. We make it possible for our scholars to push the frontiers of knowledge and make new discoveries that improve the human condition, build understanding of the human experience, and inspire appreciation of the arts and culture that enrich our lives.
Welcome, Elaine! We look forward to working with you.
Appointments are being handled by Deborah Zombar (firstname.lastname@example.org).