Library committee has short list for new dean

Travis Perry

With spring just around the corner, Washburn will inevitably see new flowers blooming, the cold thawing and a new dean for Mabee Library.

As the search to fill the dean of libraries for Washburn winds down a select panel of administrators, faculty and students help decide which of the three final candidates will fit the position.

“It’s important that we find the right person for Washburn,” said Alan Bearman, assistant professor of history.

Ultimately, the decision will be made by Jerry Farley, university president, and Ron Wasserstein, vice president of academic affairs.

The remaining candidates are: Ronald Wirtz, director of library services for McClennon Community College in Waco, Texas; Dale Askey, web development librarian at Kansas State University; and Felix Unaeze, library director for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Bearman has worked in conjunction with several others on the committee including Anne Liebst on introducing each candidate to Washburn.

Liebst, assistant director for technical services in Mabee, said that the air in the library is filled with excitement and nervousness at the thought of a new dean. The person they are hoping to fill the position, currently being held by interim dean Gary Schmidt, would ideally share many of the same ideals that Schmidt has set rolling in his time at the library. Those include being user-centered and thinking about how to continue transitioning Mabee into the 21st century.

“This person needs to build relationships with students and faculty,” said Liebst. “Those are the kind of relationships that this person is going to have to build on.”

Visits for Wirtz, Askey and Unaeze were scheduled to begin with the start of the new semester, but due to weather issues Wirtz was unable to travel and will have his visit rescheduled. Askey will be on campus Wednesday through the end of the week, while Unaeze will arrive the following Sunday and will stay through Jan. 30. While they are on campus, each candidate will, among many things, provide a presentation on how they plan to take the library into the 21st century.

They will also hold a student forum to gather input on what students would like to see from Mabee. The forum for Askey will take place at 3:45 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 25 in the Washburn Room of the Memorial Union. Unaeze’s forum will be at 3:45 p.m. Monday, Jan. 29 in the Washburn Room of the Memorial Union. Dates are yet to be rescheduled for Wirtz.

The response to the library being open 24/7 during fall semester finals week was encouraging, said Liebst. Students interested in continuing this on to a permanent feature of Mabee should voice any and all concerns relating to this issue and others at the student forums.

“I think it’s really important for students to get involved in something like this,” said Bearman.

Liebst said in order for Mabee to thrive in the future, it is crucial that whoever fills the spot as dean of libraries builds relationships with members of the Topeka community, faculty and students. Above all though, they must have a sense of humor.

“I think the future is bright,” said Liebst. “I’m looking forward to it.”