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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

U-Ill. dean named LTS chief

Published: January 20, 2012
Section: News

John Unsworth will succeed Perry Hanson next month as Brandeis’ vice provost and chief information officer for Library and Technology Services. He was formerly dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In an e-mail announcing the appointment, Provost Steve Goldstein stated, “John impressed the search committee and the Brandeis community with his intelligence, deep expertise, collaborative approach and easy manner.”

The search committee, which consisted of 18 individuals, included both faculty members and students who were responsible for selecting potential candidates for the position. Daniel Feldman, vice president for planning and institutional research, co-chaired the committee with Professor Ann Koloski-Ostrow (CLAS). Remarking upon the selection process, Feldman stated, “What was especially striking throughout was how committed all search committee members were to keeping in view the best interests of the university as a whole rather than just one particular perspective.”

Andrew Hyde, an undergraduate member of the committee, said the position was difficult to fill because of the nature of thinking of both library and technology services as a single department. Elaborating upon the criteria for selecting candidates, Hyde recalls, “We were looking either for an individual with experience in both realms or someone, say, with a focus in the technical side that could learn and be sensitive to the concerns of the other group.” According to Unsworth, it was actually this unique culmination of services that initially attracted him to Brandeis, in addition to the university’s “relatively small scale combined with a core liberal arts component.”

Although Unsworth acknowledges that library and technology services are often organized separately, he asserts that “good IT infrastructure is essential to delivering quality library services,” for “it is crucial [in] understanding the informational needs of the community.”  He claims “that the advancement of library and technology services is essential to the future of Brandeis.”

Hyde recognizes that “Unsworth emerged as a strong candidate for the position due to his pioneering work with the online learning environment as well as his role as dean of one of the most prestigious libraries.” Unsworth derives his experience in the field from his position as dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Urbana-Champaign since 2003, in which he succeeded not only in surpassing his goal of raising $15 million, but also in anticipating to finish at approximately $18 million once the campaign is concluded.

In terms of his goals at Brandeis, Unsworth plans on spending the first few months of his role as vice provost in the process of strategic planning. This entails establishing appointments with various members of the organization in order to gain a well-rounded perspective of the specific needs of the university. From there, he will then formulate an approach that will satisfy the requirements of the Brandeis community, both in regards to technology services and the library component.

When questioned about the current issues plaguing LTS, Hyde spoke of the recent budget cuts in 2009 and the continued deferred maintenance of the library. In an interview with The Hoot, Unsworth recognized these concerns, further adding that the LTS workforce is currently down by about 10 percent. He hopes to gain “an understanding of how this organization needs to evolve to meet the changing needs of the university.” He asserts that opportunities to raise money for the library include federal funding, research funding and endowments from alumni among other sources. Furthermore, Unsworth revealed that new positions at LTS may be created.

Hyde states that LTS has been responsible for “innovations at the national level, and continues with the hope of restoring the budget and hiring new workers.” Daniel Feldman bears an optimistic outlook upon the future ventures of LTS, stating, “I think I speak for Professor Koloski-Ostrow, too, in saying that, as co-chairs, we could not be more pleased with the outcome of the search, and we look forward to Dr. Unsworth’s arrival on campus.”