University of Delaware Online Research Magazine
University of Delaware Online Research Magazine

ISSN 2150-5128

The Quiet Revolution
The Quiet Revolution

 

by | March 26, 2018

  Tracey Bryant

Director for Research Communications, UD Office of Communications and Marketing

ABOVE: Trevor A. Dawes, the Vice Provost for Libraries and Museums and May Morris University Librarian at the University of Delaware, is featured in the Morris Library on the University of Delaware’s Newark campus.

Trevor A. Dawes learned how libraries can change people’s lives when he was a college student. Now, he’s leading the charge to make the UD Library, Museums and Press an even greater force for good.
 

Q. What led you to a career at the library?

A. I never considered librarianship as a profession until I got a job working in the library as a work-study student at Columbia University. I had great mentors there who recognized my passion. James Neal, president of the American Library Association, is one of those mentors I still have today. David Roselle, president emeritus of UD and a former member of the OCLC board, also has been a great friend and supporter.

Q. What is it about libraries that hooked you?

A. Libraries change people’s lives. You can be anything you want to be, go anywhere you want to go, simply by being in the library. It can be physically or virtually. It’s where you can learn to do anything you want to do. One of my favorite Facebook memes is a cartoon where one person says, “I want to do this and this and this,” and the other person says, “Well, you need to go to the library.”

Q. What’s the future of the library in this era of fake news — do you see the library’s role changing?

A. Fundamentally, our role really hasn’t changed—we’re providing access to resources, services and programs, and contributing to the success of faculty, students and staff. However, just as traditional classrooms are changing, so are the ways we are reaching out to constituents—through our Multimedia Literacy Program, for example, or the extensive online research guides we develop for students on numerous academic subjects. We want to help our communities to be able to evaluate information with confidence, to be critical thinkers. Google and Wikipedia are a starting point that should lead you to vetted resources and research consultation services—conveniently offered at the library.

Q. In addition to the UD Library, you also oversee the University’s Museums and Press—how many of your peers have such a multifaceted role?

A. Currently, there are only a handful of us with this reporting structure among the 124 members of the Association of Research Libraries, an organization of the largest research and university libraries in the U.S. and Canada, and I expect that number will grow. That’s what really attracted me to this position, as museum collections is an area of personal growth and development.

When people hear the word “library,” they sometimes think we’re only about books, but our Special Collections also include maps, prints, photographs, oral histories and much more. Our director of museums oversees the library’s Special Collections, and our Special Collections are highlighted in exhibitions on campus, so we’ve already been collaborating and integrating these resources into teaching, research and community outreach.

Q. It’s been said that a book is already out-of-date by the time it’s published. What can publishers do to keep their content fresh and readers engaged?

A. We’ve been grappling with this at the University of Delaware Press, where we published 16 hardcovers and eight paperbacks last year. What we’re hoping to do is to extend the life of a book by offering new ways for authors and readers to interact digitally. That could be through special chat sessions and other events. Building that interaction promotes the print project and also draws people in through online communities. We’re exploring some exciting ideas.

Q. What makes UD’s research library really excel?

A. Our general collections are like those at most institutions of our size. But what really makes us stand out are our Special Collections. We have particular strengths in the arts, English, Irish and American literature, Delawareana, horticulture, and the history of science and technology.

If you are doing work on the Pre-Raphaelites, the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection here at UD is the pre-eminent collection outside of Europe. We have a strong Lincoln Collection containing more than 2,000 books, artifacts and historic documents from the 16th U.S. president, including copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment signed by Lincoln.

We have former Vice President Joe Biden’s senatorial papers, Sen. Tom Carper’s papers, and recently signed to have Gov. John Carney’s papers, among other Delaware leaders who have been on the national stage. Our Special Collections put us at a place where we rank highly with other institutions.

Q. The UD Library has more than 2.7 million books. How do you decide what books to purchase each year?

A. We have library liaisons in departments across campus who have a good understanding and strong subject background in a specific area of research and teaching emphasis. They make recommendations, along with our user population.

We also rely on vendors who help define a purchasing profile that fits with our aca- demic mission. These profiling systems really reflect how well we match the needs of our users. We need to be in lockstep with our academic programs, particularly new undergraduate programs. The return rate for books ordered used to be about 10 percent across campus. Now it is less than 1 percent.

Q. What’s a typical day like for you?

A. That’s a little too early to say. I am in meetings times 12 right now because I want to learn about the people with whom I work, the culture and climate, and the state. Since I came on board about a year and a half ago, I’ve made it a point to have a one-on-one meeting with every staff member in the library, the museums and press, and with every dean and academic department. Everyone sees a role where the library can help them succeed. The challenge is how do we prioritize our resources—human and financial—to do all the things we’d like to do. It’s a great challenge to have.

Q. Can libraries help make a university education more affordable?

A. UD recently became a member of the Open Textbook Network, an alliance of higher ed institutions. Open textbooks are created by educators, published under a Creative Commons license, and are available to students at low or no cost, which would save students potentially hundreds of dollars every semester while providing faculty with the flexibility to make edits to their texts to better meet the learning needs of students. It’s a movement that’s gaining momentum nationally.

Q. How is the library working with the larger Delaware community?

A. As just one example, we work with the state Department of Education to provide all Delaware public schools with access to K–12 databases. These resources run the gamut, from e-books to online encyclopedias, magazines and newspapers. Some of our staff also go into schools to work with teachers and principals. I’ve also met with librarians at Winterthur Museum and Library, Delaware Historical Society, Delaware Art Museum and Wilmington University recently to discuss areas of potential statewide collaboration.

Q. Do you have a favorite book?

A. My favorite book is Things Fall Apart by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. It portrays Nigeria’s Ibo culture of the late 1800s in a realistic way compared to the stereotypical accounts made by European writers of the time. I read it when I was in high school. The book is really about family and supporting each other. Whether it’s our blood family or our organizational family, it reinforces that we need to build our place together at work. We all need a support system.

Q. What’s something most people don’t know about you?

A. I’m a pretty open book, no pun intended. But here’s one: I was born in Jamaica. My family moved to New York for another Jamaica when I was 12. My family lives in Jamaica, Queens.

Q. What do you do when you’re not in the library/on campus?

A. I love to travel and have been to 46 of the 50 U.S. states, and that’s not just spending a night in the airport. I love to mix traveling with eating because it’s such a great way to learn about different cultures. My three favorite vacations so far are Hawaii, Brazil and Spain. My travels have helped me in my understanding of diversity and inclusion, and that’s something I’m passionate about.

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