After a failed search two years ago, the Advisory Board for Library Planning (ABLP) hopes to hire a new Dean of the Honnold-Mudd Library within the next two months. The new dean will replace current interim Library Director Jason Price.
“We are generally seeking a candidate with who can handle the unique relationship among the Claremont Colleges, who can understand needs in terms of space, who is innovative in terms of developing a system or systems of access to library materials, and who takes into consideration the needs of both faculty and students,” wrote Jessica Chairez PZ ’14, a student representative to the ABLP, in an e-mail to TSL.
While not directly in charge of the search itself, the ABLP supervises the search committee, and many members of ABLP are also members of the search committee.
According to Claremont Graduate University (CGU) President Debbie Freund, the ABLP upgraded the position in order to highlight the library’s academic prominence.
“We wanted the position to reflect the centrality and importance of the position,” Freund said.
The ABLP, which is composed of faculty, student, and library representatives, conducted a national search for the dean position and has narrowed the field to four candidates. Each prospective dean has met with students, faculty, and staff in addition to the committee. Freund said the feedback from these meetings has been integral in the selection process.
“Students and faculty who have met with the candidates have been very helpful,” Freund said. “Students have specified certain aspects of the library they want to maintain and expand on.”
Honnold-Mudd is somewhat of an anomaly amongst undergraduate intuitions due to its shared 5C governance. Pomona College history professor and ABLP member Gary Kates said that the failed search two years ago resulted mainly from a fuzzy governing structure that deterred candidates from accepting the position.
Until the 1999-2000 school year, CGU and Claremont University Consortium (CUC) were the same institution. When they split that year, the library was inadvertently left under CUC’s jurisdiction, effectively distancing it from the academic community.
After the unsuccessful search for a new dean two years ago revealed the governing issues inherent in this organizational structure, the ABLP granted “lead institution” status to CGU. CGU now occupies the highest position in the institutional hierarchy, with the Dean of the Library reporting directly to Freund. Freund then relays any updates or issues to the ABLP.
“The library is very easy to navigate as a student because that was the way it was designed, but it is very hard to govern,” Kates said.
According to Kates, the search comes at a crucial moment for the library, stressing the drastic changes in media consumption over the past fifty years.
“Libraries are changing more rapidly than any other academic institution. The way this generation of students utilizes the library is vastly different from how my generation used it and is equally different from the way kids in 25 years will use it,” Kates said.
Changes in media consumption over the last few decades have put the viability of print media in question, Kates said.
“I think we will need more space due to an increase in both print and electronic media, but there are those who think I am completely wrong: that we will see a continued drop in print media and a surge in electronic media use,” Kates said.
According to Kates and Freund, the Dean of the Library will primarily focus on long-term strategic planning, specifically the establishment of a best-practices consensus that analyzes and compares the policies of libraries at comparable institutions. The dean will be charged with compiling that data and using it to clarify the library’s future goals and practices.
Kates said he remains optimistic that the search will allow the library and the 5Cs to address these issues in a timely and effective manner.
“Hopefully the new dean will be able to help guide the library in navigating these existential questions,” Kates said.