LOGAN, Utah — After serving as the interim dean since July 1, 2021, Utah State University has named Jennifer Duncan as the Dean of Libraries. Duncan took over the role after the retirement of former Dean of Libraries Bradford Cole.
Prior to serving as interim dean for libraries, Duncan had served as the head of USU’s Special Collections and Archives as well as the head of Collection Development. Duncan has worked as a collections librarian for more than 20 years, including roles at Columbia University and Texas Christian University. Duncan said working as the interim dean sold her on the position.
“Serving as interim dean helped myself and the library faculty and staff recognize whether we were a right fit for each other,” Duncan said. “I love the people in this building so much. I knew I wanted to support them as much as I could through the interim period. The more I worked with them in more diverse roles than I’ve done here before, the more I realized I really would enjoy taking this challenge on for a period of time.”
Duncan has been a library afficionado for as long as she can remember. Since an early age, Duncan visited her local libraries, sometimes prompting the local librarian to call Duncan’s parents, just to make sure they knew where she was.
“I basically grew up in libraries,” she said. “My parents would often just drop me off at the public library. I would spend the whole day there. At one point I remember a librarian calling my parents to say, ‘Hey, do you know your kid is down here just hanging out looking at the microfilm?’”
Duncan would stay involved with libraries throughout her schooling years and had the opportunity early in her college days to work in the campus library at Smith College. She has been in just about every role one could imagine at a library.
“My very first job in libraries was in an arts library at my undergraduate institution,” Duncan said. “I worked at the circulation desk and checked books out with the stamp and the little label that we don’t even use anymore. I’ve worked in reference and I worked in cataloguing as a student. I worked in general collections, print collections, special collections. I've really worked across the board in libraries.”
After graduation, Duncan went on to work at a bookstore but soon thought that she wanted more than just to sell books. She wanted to connect people to information and get them excited about learning, support research and get it in the hands of the public.
“What I love to do is to get people into the building,” Duncan said. “It’s just so important to get people into the building and to get our staff out of the building, connecting with people. Our librarians help students learn how to do research, how to interpret research, how to synthesize different research together, how to create their own research and therefore their own knowledge.”
Duncan is excited to help continue the library’s transformation into the electronic and digital age. The library has been transitioning into a digital space for many years, spending much of its budget on electronic acquisitions that are available for students and faculty to use. The library has also added new features, such as a virtual reality lab, 3-D printing capabilities and a recording studio, and it has been upgrading group study rooms to support virtual meetings. The library also is the campus leader in facilitating the development of open educational resources, freely available online resources that increase the accessibility of low-cost course materials to students. Duncan also hopes to continue to expand on the library’s outreach initiatives, so students continue to see the library as home.
“We like to think ourselves as the heart of the campus,” she said. “We are a space where we hope to draw people in and be a place where they can spend time.”
Duncan is also excited to continue supporting the library statewide, with libraries at USU Eastern and USU Blanding, as well as resources that can be accessed by students throughout the state.
“A lot of people forget that we have connections across the state, even if people don't come into our building,” Duncan said. “So much of our collection is electronic. We have all of these new learning objects that students can use across the state. We really are a statewide operation.”
Duncan graduated with a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1997 and has a bachelor’s degree in history from Smith College.
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