We recently asked some of the newest members of our Library Advisory Board to express in their own words why the Duke University Libraries are personally important to them and worthy of support. Here’s what they said.
When I was in third grade, I made it my goal to read every book in my small town’s public library. However, after I finished binging my way through Nancy Drew,The Hardy Boys, and The Bobbsey Twins, I ventured beyond the basement level children’s floor and was completely disheartened to discover additional floors with an unfathomable number of books—most of which were not about adolescent crime solvers. Despite that setback, I did not let the revelation that I would never be able to read all the books in a library get in the way of my love of libraries. As a student, my appreciation of libraries was focused on research materials and suitable study locations. As a Duke undergraduate, Perkins Library was an integral part of my life. I studied with friends in the Gothic Reading Room, often retreating to the stacks when real grinding was necessary.
It has been both an honor and a natural progression of my love of libraries to join the Duke Library Advisory Board. Just like my third-grade revelation, I have been awestruck by the complexity, enormity, and sheer quality and quantity of the resources of the Duke Libraries. Duke’s world-class libraries, including Perkins, Bostock, Rubenstein and the soon-to-be renovated Lilly Library, have over 8 million volumes in their collection, almost 3 million e-books, and hundreds of thousands of e-journals. That’s a real inspiration for all bibliophiles.
– Karen Christensen Shaffer T‘89
Over three generations, my family has logged countless hours in Duke’s libraries. While there are parts of the Libraries that are timeless, the experience for each generation differed from that of the generation before. Libraries need to be fluid and evolving, both in what they offer and in the surroundings that they provide. By supporting Duke Libraries both financially and with my input on the Library Advisory Board, I hope to help ensure the vibrancy of Duke’s libraries for future generations.
– Ellen von der Heyden Gillespie T’87
The Duke Libraries were always a special place on campus during my time at Duke. Far beyond just a place to find a book and do research, the Libraries are the heart and hub of Duke student campus life. Whether meeting friends for a study group or catching up over coffee at von der Heyden, the Libraries were that place where I spent so much of my time outside of class. So when trying to figure out how to get more involved in Duke, I loved the idea of being part of the Library Advisory Board. Learning how the faculty and staff work with the entire university to make this place grow and continue to be at the center of student life has been so interesting and rewarding, especially as I’ve seen the Lilly Library renovation process unfold. On top of that, the board is a very interesting and eclectic group of people who just love Duke—like myself!
– Katie Witten T’08
While working on my book on the racial history of Duke in the Sixties, I spent countless hours in the Duke University Archives. I saw that capturing the complex story I wanted to tell would have been impossible if not for the passion and commitment of University Archives staff over the decades. I joined the Library Advisory Board because the Libraries are at the center of Duke’s ongoing anti-racism work. The Libraries are deeply committed to this work, and I love the opportunity the LAB gives me to support those efforts.
The past year has a been a time of transition for the Duke University Libraries. Not only did we welcome a new University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs (see our conversation with Joseph A. Salem, Jr. in this issue), but his appointment coincided with several retirements and departures in the Libraries’ senior leadership team.
In March, L. Blue Dean was appointed Associate University Librarian for Development following the retirement of Tom Hadzor, whose career at Duke spanned twenty-six years, including sixteen in the Libraries. A seasoned fundraiser with more than twenty years of experience in higher education and the nonprofit sector, including prior appointments at Duke, Dean serves as a member of the Libraries’ Executive Group and leads organizational efforts to sustain and expand philanthropic support for the Duke University Libraries.
In May, Emily Daly was named Interim Associate University Librarian for Research and Public Services, following the departure of Dave Hansen, who was named the new executive director of the non-profit organization Authors Alliance. Daly has worked at the Duke University Libraries for sixteen years, most recently as Interim Head of Research and Instructional Services and Head of the Assessment and User Experience Department. In her interim role, she provides leadership and oversight for Access and Delivery Services, the East Campus Libraries, International and Area Studies, the Humanities and Social Sciences Department, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Department. A national search has been launched to find a permanent AUL for Research and Public Services.
In July, Jameca Dupree was named Interim Associate University Librarian for Administrative Services with the retirement of Ann Wolfe, who had served in that role since 2002. (Wolfe will continue to work for the Libraries in a special part-time capacity as Project Manager for the Lilly Library Renovation and Expansion.) Dupree has worked at Duke for twenty-one years, including seventeen at the Duke University Libraries, where she most recently served as Director of Business Services. In her interim role, she oversees Business Services, Facilities and Distribution Services, and the Library Service Center. A national search for the permanent AUL for Administrative Services is currently under way.
The other members of the Libraries’ Executive Group include Dracine Hodges, Associate University Librarian for Technical Services; Timothy M. McGeary, Associate University Librarian for Digital Strategies and Technology; and Naomi Nelson, Associate University Librarian and Director of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Libraries Receive Grant for Data Curation Training
Every year, more funders and scholarly journals require scientific researchers to share and archive their data. To understand why this is so important, just look at the recent pandemic. The ability to quickly share reliable and reproducible data about COVID-19 resulted in the development of effective vaccines in record time.
But in order for it to be useful to anyone else, data not only needs to be shared but properly organized and managed. In other words, it needs to be curated.
This is an area where the Duke University Libraries have some expertise. Several years ago, we launched the Duke Research Data Repository, an open access online platform for Duke researchers to deposit and share datasets, so that they are preserved and accessible for the long-term. And our Center for Data and Visualization Sciences provides support and instruction throughout the year on all aspects of data-driven research to faculty and researchers across the university. We also partner with other information professionals through the Data Curation Network to advance open scholarship.
Now that expertise has been recognized with a federal grant to help other libraries provide similar support to researchers at their own institutions. The $132,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services will be used to further develop the Data Curation Network curriculum focusing on how to curate a wide range of research data, specifically for people who work in academic libraries and archives.
Sophia Lafferty-Hess, Senior Research Data Management Consultant, is the principal investigator. In her day job here in the Libraries, Sophia teaches and consults with researchers at Duke on how to organize, document, preserve, and publish their research data. For the grant, she will be working with colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis, Princeton, the University of Minnesota, University of California-Santa Barbara, and the Association of Research Libraries to develop in-depth training modules on data curation—covering the basics as well as advanced topics.
“This project will use a community-driven approach to generate new curation learning materials,” said Sophia. “By working together, we can build knowledge of practices and emerging trends and share that knowledge out with the broader community. It is really exciting to work with other passionate people to enhance our capacity to curate the diversity of data being shared at our institutions.”
The ultimate goal is to enhance the quality of scientific data curated by libraries across the country, so that they can be reused by the global community of scientists to verify results and foster new discoveries.
In Memoriam: Connie R. Dunlap, 1924 – 2022
This summer, we received word of the passing of a former colleague and leader of this institution. Connie Robson Dunlap served as Duke’s University Librarian from 1975 to 1981 and had the distinction of being the first woman to occupy that post. At the time of her appointment, she was only one of three women in the U.S. to direct major research library systems, so both she and Duke were trailblazers in this regard.
Born in Lansing, Michigan, she attended the University of Michigan, where she studied geology and geography and later earned her master’s in library science. After graduating, she went to work for the University of Michigan Library, where she rose through the ranks and was eventually appointed Deputy Associate Director. She was named Duke’s University Librarian in 1975, succeeding Benjamin E. Powell.
During her time at Duke, Dunlap was instrumental in formalizing what would become the Triangle Research Libraries Network (TRLN), a consortium of the library systems at Duke, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina Central University, and North Carolina State University, dedicated to resource sharing, technological innovation, and cooperative collection development. She was also responsible for a report that recommended a storage facility for collections, which anticipated the Library Service Center years before it became a reality. And she was a bit of a visionary. Dunlap predicted the role of computers and technology in research libraries fairly accurately to include “quick data” to supplement printed and published scholarship and the emergence of digital bibliographic tools and databases. After retirement, she was active in many organizations and was a long-time volunteer at the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.
Dunlap died on April 23, 2022, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the age of 97. She was preceded in death by her husband of fifty years, Robert, who died in 1994.
At its best, library research can feel like magic. With just a few keystrokes, you can find almost anything you’re looking for, no matter how obscure. Better still, you can often access it instantly, without having to set foot inside the actual library. The laptop is your library, without all those pesky stairs to climb or stacks to search.
But let us assure you, providing online access to millions of books, journals, and other media is anything but magic. And people are often surprised by how much it costs. So we thought it would be fun to test your knowledge of the business of knowledge, so to speak. Take our short quiz and see how much you know about the true cost of all that information at your fingertips—and learn more about what the Duke University Libraries are doing to keep it affordable.
Scroll down for answers.
1. Which costs more?
a. What Duke pays for one year of access to a package of online journals published by the academic publishing giant Elsevier.
b. Your own private hundred-acre island in the Bahamas.
2. Which costs less?
a. Duke’s annual subscription to Web of Science, a database that provides reference and citation data from academic journals, conference proceedings, and other documents in various academic disciplines.
b. A four-year undergraduate degree from Duke, paying full tuition.
3. Multiplication time! How much more expensive is it for Duke to subscribe to a scientific journal like Nature than it is for you to subscribe as an individual?
a. 10 times
b. 25 times
c. 75 times
4. How many times would a family of four have to go out to the movies to equal the cost of a subscription to Academic Video Online, a database of streaming films available through the Duke University Libraries?
5. This textbook is required for one of the largest lecture classes at Duke and costs around $175 at the campus bookstore. Which would cost more?
a. Giving away a print copy of the textbook to every student who takes organic chemistry at Duke for the next ten years.
b. Purchasing the e-book version of the textbook and letting students access it through the library for one year.
For just about $2 million, you can own a little slice of paradise in the Bahamas’ Exuma Cays—or, if you prefer, a big slice of a research library’s collections budget.
Elsevier is one of a handful of for-profit corporations that control most of the academic journal market. Like cable TV providers, these companies push libraries to purchase “Big Deal” bundles of journals, only a small percentage of which receive the majority of use.
Over the last two years, library staff across Duke have been working to renegotiate these “Big Deal” journal packages. We’ve been scrutinizing each journal title with an eye on usage, price, cost-per-use, relevance to Duke’s research profile, journal impact factor, volume of articles authored by Duke researchers, and more factors. All told, those efforts have saved Duke about $1 million annually. But the rising cost of academic journals, concentrated in the hands of a few profit-driven publishing giants, remains unsustainable.
That’s right. A Duke education isn’t cheap, especially if you’re paying full freight. But you can still get one for less than what we pay annually for some scholarly databases. Ongoing subscriptions to electronic resources make up approximately two-thirds of our total library collections budget, a percentage that has been steadily rising over time. That means fewer dollars available to spend on print materials and other resources library users expect us to have.
The skyrocketing price of academic journals is most noticeable in the sciences, where access to the latest information is crucial and certain high-profile journals carry enormous influence. For researchers in these disciplines, having an article accepted by a prestigious journal like Nature can lead to promotions, grant funding, and attention from the mainstream media. As a result, competition among scientists to publish in such high-impact journals is fierce. Also as a result, journals like Nature command the highest institutional subscription fees.
The Duke University Libraries have long been strong proponents of open access publishing. Through a variety of funding and publishing models, Duke researchers can increasingly make their publications, data, and other research outputs freely available to anyone to read and use, without a paywall, resulting in increased reach and impact for Duke research, and benefits to the world at large. Free and unfettered access to academic research is critical to a healthy and open society. To learn more about specific ways we’re working to increase open access to Duke research and promote a more equitable scholarly publishing ecosystem, visit scholarworks.duke.edu.
Everyone loves the convenience of streaming video—including us! Streaming videos take up zero shelf space, can be “checked out” and viewed by many people at once, and check themselves back in with no reshelving or handling required.
But providing broad-based access to streaming video is costly. It’s not as simple as signing up for a Netflix or Hulu account and sharing it with everyone at Duke. Instead, libraries work with specialized vendors who license film content or provide subscriptions. In some cases, we’re able to license films directly ourselves. Contrary to what you might think, educational and documentary films are usually more expensive to purchase or license than commercial blockbusters.
As of this writing, there are over 100,000 streaming video titles available to Duke users through the Libraries—far more than you can find on any popular commercial streaming service.
5. Trick question!
Although many print textbooks are available as e-books (including this one), textbook publishers often won’t sell them to libraries—or else strictly limit how many people can use them at one time. We can’t buy the e-book version of this required course material and make it easily available to all Duke students enrolled in the course at any price. It’s just another example of how the academic publishing market doesn’t align with the mission of higher education or the interests of students.
To reduce the burden of textbook costs for our student population, the Duke University Libraries have for a number of years purchased print copies of the textbooks for the 100 largest courses on campus and let students check them out for a few hours at a time. We also encourage students to donate their textbooks to the Libraries at the end of the year, so that future students can check them out for free.
When asked about library services that are important to them, 39 percent of Duke undergraduates list our “Top Textbooks” program as important, which means it ranks just below core services like printing, reservable rooms, and in-person assistance at a service desk. It’s just one small way we’re working to make a Duke education more affordable for all.
Thanks to the University of Virginia Library for the inspiration behind this quiz.
Joseph A. Salem, Jr., joined Duke University on August 15 as the new Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs.
A nationally recognized university librarian and information literacy expert, Salem comes to Duke from Michigan State University, where he has served as Dean of Libraries since 2018. Following the recent announcement of his appointment, Salem sat down with us to discuss his background, coming to Duke, his initial priorities as University Librarian, and his thoughts on librarianship and leadership.
Welcome to Duke! Tell us a little about what drew you to this role.
About five years ago, I was fortunate to spend a week at Duke as a member of the Association of Research Libraries Leadership Fellows Program. We visited three different universities in the U.S. and Canada as part of that program. I kind of fell in love with the campus and the libraries while I was here. It was the only university we visited where I kept thinking, “I would love to work here one day.” There are some universities where the libraries have to work hard to make a case for themselves. That’s not the situation at Duke. The libraries here are obviously held in high regard by the students, faculty, administration, and alumni. There’s a shared sense of their value as an asset and a point of pride for the institution. That obviously makes the University Librarian’s job easier. But it also tells you an awful lot about the overall values of the university community. So that was a big attraction. I’ve never worked at a private institution, and I didn’t take the transition lightly. If I were going to do it, I wanted it to be somewhere where the community felt as strongly about the value of libraries as I do.
During the search process, you spoke with a number of library stakeholders and learned more about initiatives currently underway here, such as the Lilly Library renovation, our anti-racism roadmap, efforts to support Duke’s expanding science and technology programs, and so on. Can you talk about what you’ve learned so far and how that has shaped your sense of your first priorities as University Librarian?
The Lilly Library renovation is obviously a significant priority for the next several years. Being part of such a large project that will benefit students and the entire campus is exciting for all of us. Another priority is to start asking ourselves what comes after Lilly. Over the last seventeen years under Deborah Jakubs’ leadership, the Duke Libraries have been focused on significant renovations and facilities projects, all highly successful. That’s not to say we won’t care about or still have those kinds of needs in the future. But there will necessarily be a kind of shift in our funding priorities, especially as Duke enters its next capital campaign. We need to engage new and diverse groups of library supporters and get as many people involved as possible in stewarding our future.
Another thing I would point out is the strategic growth of unique collections in the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Those collections are growing into significant points of pride for the university. What should our direction be going forward, in terms of what we acquire? And what is our digitization program for those collections? We already have a strong reputation for excellence and innovation in digitizing rare and unique collections, and for prioritizing open access and open content. Such incredible collections, combined with incredible technical expertise, are an exciting combination. Seeing where they take us next is a high priority for us.
“We need to engage new and diverse groups of library supporters and get as many people involved as possible in stewarding our future.”
What are some of the big opportunities you see ahead for the Duke University Libraries?
I’m a big proponent of partnership. And at Duke, the Libraries are known as good partners. Looking at President Price’s strategic priorities, there are a lot of opportunities for us to get even more involved in efforts aimed at building campus community. For instance, I was impressed with the recent library exhibit on Duke’s Latinx community. That’s a great example of bringing our collections and expertise forward to let Duke students and community partners tell their own story, so that they find themselves represented in our collections and spaces. It’s a way to advance a broad university initiative, but in a way that highlights what’s unique about us and our role as the Libraries. There are other partnerships and opportunities I’m excited about as well, such as getting more involved in the arts initiative being led by the Provost’s Office, supporting efforts to build better learning and living communities, and developing an even stronger working relationship with Duke University Press.
At Michigan State, you led several efforts to build a more diverse and inclusive library environment. What worked well, and what lessons have you taken from those efforts?
One lesson I’ve learned is that it takes efforts on both a large and a small scale. On the large end, for example, is a project we had at Michigan State to make our main library building more accessible. There was one accessible entrance on the south side of the building. But that’s not the entrance most students use. The flow of traffic is through the north entrance, near the bus stop. If you have mobility issues, you have to go all the way around to the back of the library to get in. And it’s Michigan, so there’s snow on the ground for a good part of the year. We had been trying for years to get the university to build a ramp to our north entrance, but we kept getting nowhere. What that plaza in front of the library needed was a more general overhaul. So we built a coalition that included the Libraries and the MSU facilities office, as well as the botanical gardens and the museum, which also border on that plaza. We got some funding to do a feasibility study to turn that area into an outdoor learning space, including a ramp to the library. And in the next capital campaign, that will be a fundraising priority for four different campus units, which makes it very accomplishable. What worked well in that case was figuring out who your partners are and building a coalition to get things done.
On the smaller end of the spectrum, even seemingly little things like being attuned to other people’s perspectives can make a difference. For example, at Michigan State, we had the Cesar Chavez collection, and we wanted to create a study space around it for Latinx students. But when you looked at the space, there was a painting of Chavez on the wall, and right next to it were all these photos of past library directors—all of whom, for the most part, looked like me. It just felt so different from what we wanted for that space. So we removed those photos. It’s not that we were ashamed of our past. It’s just that those photos could be presented elsewhere or differently. As a result, the space felt more welcoming to our Latinx students, and it cost nothing.
Building strong relationships with student and faculty partners has been a big focus of your own career in libraries. What’s your approach to building partnerships across campus, and why is it so important?
It’s important because partnerships are what the university was designed for. That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about Duke. It feels like a partnering environment. In a partnership, you have to be willing to make decisions together. Stakeholders advise each other. But when you invite people in as a true partner, you have to let them play a part in deciding on direction. That’s not comfortable for everyone. Some people don’t want to give up control of their idea or initiative.
The partnering approach lets us maximize what resources we have. But it also helps us maximize expertise. We have faculty experts all around us who understand the legal, disciplinary, and economic landscape we work in, just by nature of the work they do. It’s a lot easier to leverage their expertise than to hire someone or go out and find a consultant.
Another by-product of bringing people in as your partner is that you end up with a wider network of people who understand what you’re doing as a library. Likewise, when you partner on their initiatives, they see the unique value of the library and the expertise we bring to bear. So there’s nothing but wins across the board when you can work that way.
What about the people who work here? How do you build a workplace culture that encourages collaboration and makes people feel valued?
A number of years ago, a colleague of mine used a baseball analogy to ask this same question. He essentially asked if I was a player-friendly manager, and I think that is a good way to sum to describe my approach. I can’t imagine there being any other approach to this job than being down on the field with everyone else, working as a team. The role I’m in is one of creating general direction and resourcing us in such a way that we’re able to do our work and advance our careers in the best way possible. I hope that as we all work together, our library colleagues find me to be collaborative and focused on their success and well-being as people. I find the best way to get work done is for it to be work you find valuable and fulfilling, and I want that for everyone who works here.
You also have to establish a level of trust and be transparent about making decisions. With big organizations like ours, it’s a systems approach. You can make a well-intentioned decision about something happening over here, and it has an unexpected ripple effect way over there. So then you go back to those decisions and address any unintended consequences. We have to create a level of trust where we can do that.
“I’m a big proponent of partnership. And at Duke, the Libraries are known as good partners.”
Can you back up and tell us what led you to pursue a career in libraries in the first place? How would you describe the challenges and rewards of doing what we do?
I’ve always loved libraries. I grew up in a suburb of Cleveland called Maple Heights, and we had a large and beautiful public library. When I was young, my mother got a job in that library. So we spent a lot of time there, and libraries were an interest of mine early on.
But my original plan was not to go into librarianship. When I was in grad school at Kent State, I had a job in the library. But I was planning to pursue a Ph.D. in cultural theory, and I had started working toward that by earning a master’s in English. Then I became involved in a couple of national grant projects related to information literacy, and I was really enjoying the work. I realized that even though I still wanted to earn a Ph.D., I didn’t want to leave the library profession. So I changed my focus to evaluation and measurement, which tied in with the information literacy work I was passionate about.
I’m a very future-oriented person, and I find that libraries are a wonderful way of building something for the future. Obviously we play an important role in preserving the past. But the question is always to what end? In academic libraries, we do it for the benefit of future generations. We’re contributing to education, which by definition is focused on the future.
The challenges of our work are many of the same challenges that other industries and professions are dealing with. Workforce issues, stability issues, supply chain issues. Our values are also being challenged an awful lot, not so much in academic libraries but in public ones. Any challenge to our profession is a challenge to all of us. When you see books being banned, calls for defunding public libraries, legislatures getting involved in what’s appropriate for libraries to collect and what’s not, those are anathema to us as a profession and we all have cause to resist and push back. Even if we’re not personally involved, even if our library is well supported by our community, we have reason to support those who are under attack.
Great libraries are one of the defining features of great universities. But we would be merely good without the generosity of many individuals who believe in our mission and want to support us. What are your thoughts on the importance of philanthropy to our work?
There are so many good things out there people can support with their philanthropic dollars. When they choose to support us, that’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly. Alumni and donors who give to the Duke Libraries usually do so either because they had a great experience at this university, or because they find that the work we’re doing aligns with their own personal values. That support is essential, and not just from a budgetary standpoint. Our alumni and donors have so much more to offer than just their financial support. There’s a high level of professional expertise among people who give to us—expertise in the digital domain, intellectual property law, publishing, and related areas that are important to a modern research library. There’s a lot of mutual benefit to figuring out how to leverage that expertise and what we can learn from them. All of that is to say, there are a lot of different ways to engage with and support the Libraries.
Obviously this library system has benefited tremendously from the generosity of many people who support our work. The upcoming renovation and expansion of Lilly Library is just the latest example of that. A project like that doesn’t happen without the sustained support of our alumni and friends, and it’s absolutely vital to our continued success. It has gotten us where we are now, and it has built the libraries that made me want to come here.
As she prepares to step down, we asked Deborah Jakubs to reflect on her nearly four decades at Duke and share some of her thoughts on librarianship, leadership, and why you can’t have a great university without a great library at its center.
When you were planning for retirement, you probably didn’t expect your last couple of years would coincide with a global pandemic, a nation-wide racial reckoning, and a fundamental shift in the way we work. What have been some of the toughest challenges you’ve had to deal with these last two years? What about some of the bright spots?
One of the toughest challenges has been striking a balance between maintaining continuity in library services and making sure that our people don’t burn out. Our staff is so incredibly dedicated, and the campus depends on us so much. You have to balance the need to continue our operations with being sensitive and empathetic, making sure that everyone’s level of dedication to their work is healthy, so that they also keep themselves, their families, and their kids healthy.
On top of that came an intense time of reckoning around racial and social justice. In the summer of 2020, there was a sense of urgency to do something. But what could we do when we were working from home and our buildings were closed? Life wasn’t exactly normal, and it still isn’t. But we found many ways to press on and make ourselves better, to engage in community reflection, to become more welcoming and inclusive, to create an Antiracism Roadmap, all of which I’m proud of.
One of the very brightest spots was opening the buildings to the students again and seeing how they flocked back in to what I think of as their spaces. It was a reminder of how much we’re appreciated, and how central the Libraries are to teaching and learning at Duke. Another bright spot was when our Library Takeout video went viral, a great example of how we tried to keep our senses of humor through it all. Over 900,000 views on YouTube!
You started working at Duke in 1983. Surely in the last 38 years you’ve had opportunities or offers to go elsewhere. What are some of the reasons why you’ve stayed at Duke for so long?
Despite having spent most of my career at a single institution, my work and responsibilities have been quite varied over the years. I started out as a General Bibliographer, then I became the Librarian for Latin America and Iberia, then I became the Head of Collection Development. Then I created our International and Area Studies department and became head, while continuing to be responsible for Latin America and Iberia. Then I became Associate University Librarian for Collections. And while in that role I had a six-year stint splitting my time here and as a Visiting Program Officer at the Association of Research Libraries. So I really had many different jobs and different challenges along the way.
Another reason I stayed is that the Duke Libraries, and the people who work here, are so highly regarded. We’re seen as partners and collaborators who bring to the table an incredible set of skills that complement what faculty themselves have. There’s a sense of being truly valued as a group of smart and dedicated people, not just a service. And it’s not that way other places, believe me. What we have at Duke is something very special, and it has kept me here.
Thirty-eight years is a long time, but it’s not uncommon to hear of library co-workers retiring after 25, 30, 40 years or more. Right now, the average Duke library staff member has 13 years of service. Why do you think so many people stay for so long? What makes working here so satisfying?
This is the kind of place where you can have ideas and see them implemented. I often think about a conversation I had years ago with Bob Keohane. I’ve known Bob and Nan Keohane (former Duke University President, 1993-2004) since I was a grad student at Stanford, where they were teaching at the time. When David Ferriero announced he was leaving Duke to head up the New York Public Library, I had to make a choice. I could either accept a job I had been offered leading the University of Chicago Library, or throw my hat into the ring here. While I was trying to decide what to do, Bob told me something that I’ve remembered often: that institutions have personalities. Duke’s personality is very different from Chicago’s. We’re a younger institution, but also more experimental and entrepreneurial. That same personality also pervades the Duke Libraries. We have very strong traditional collections and services, but we also like to try new things and we are encouraged to do just that. So I think there’s a sense among our library staff that they can make a difference with their ideas. Not just do a job but really contribute and be appreciated for their creativity and innovation. In the end I decided I would be more comfortable at Duke.
How do you think your academic background as a Latin Americanist influenced your perspective on the work and mission of a research library?
I think it’s more the fact that I have a strong background in research that has influenced my perspective. So I understand the value of deep and broad collections that are curated by people with the knowledge to anticipate scholarly trends, but who can also be responsive to the needs of scholars for what might seem like obscure materials.
When I was a Ph.D. student at Stanford, I remember walking through the stacks and coming across a city directory for Buenos Aires from 1880. And I thought, this book has information that is so important to my work! Who bought this? Who had the forethought to put this here for me? Obviously, we can’t be a big warehouse of books “just in case.” But we do have a serious responsibility as a major research library to assemble and curate collections in areas of strength that people will come to use—not only our own students and faculty, but researchers from around the world. We are known for our collecting in certain fields, and it’s our responsibility to continue to build those deep and broad distinctive collections, for present and future scholars and students.
As a library leader, not just at Duke but in the profession as a whole, you’ve had an influence on many people over the years. When you think about your own career path, who were some of the most influential or inspiring people you met along the way?
One of them would be David Ferriero, who served as Duke’s University Librarian prior to me, and with whom I had the great pleasure of working. Another would be David Stam, who used to lead the New York Public Library and went on to lead the libraries at Syracuse University. Then there’s Nan Keohane, whom I mentioned earlier. She was a role model for me, and I have great admiration for her. I keep a quote from Nan near my desk in my office, and it sums up a significant part of my philosophy on leadership: “I learned the importance of having good people around you, because there’s never a job that you do all by yourself. Knowing how to pick the right people, knowing how to work with them, inspire them, be inspired by them, help them, criticize them, encourage them to criticize you in the right thoughtful ways is an invaluable part of being a leader.”
Compassion and empathy are really central to my view of leadership, and they’re central to the people I admire the most. You also learn a lot from watching people you don’t admire for their leadership style. Understanding what not to do can be an important part of forming who you are as a leader.
Looking back on your time as University Librarian, what are some of the things you’re most proud of?
I’m really proud of having overseen the Perkins Project, the physical renovation of the Libraries on Duke’s West Campus, and watching them become the academic and social center of the university. The renovation of the Rubenstein Library meant that, at last, Duke had a library facility on a par with our remarkable special collections. And I’m proud that the Perkins Project was very inclusive of students, faculty, and staff. That’s one of the great lessons I learned from the architects we’ve worked with, especially Geoff Freeman and Tom Kearns. I used to think that renovating a building was simple and straightforward. You just fix it up. But no, I learned that the first thing you do is sit down with a group of stakeholders and ask, “What’s going to happen here? What are the functions of this space?” And you build up from there.
Along with the renovations, I’m also proud of our record of fundraising over the years. I will be very pleased to see the Lilly Library renovated and expanded. That’s the final piece we’re trying to finish now, to bring that charming library up to modern standards. I look forward to being at that re-dedication event in a few years.
One of the few constants about working in a library is change. Few parts of Duke have changed so much as the Libraries. Looking back over almost four decades, it would take a long time to describe all the changes you’ve seen. But is there anything about this place or the work we do that has essentially stayed the same?
I think one aspect that has stayed the same is our service mentality. We provide the essential intellectual scaffolding or infrastructure that supports the teaching and research enterprise of the entire university, across all disciplines. The scope of what we do has greatly broadened over time. But that basic service philosophy plays out in all of our operations and in many different forms, from special collections to research data management and more, across all interactions that our expert staff have with library users, every day.
What are some of your hopes for the Duke University Libraries as you pass the torch to someone else?
Obviously I have high hopes for the completion of the Lilly Project. Another thing I hope for is budget stability. Because we support everyone on campus and are an essential player in intellectual life, we need budget stability and predictability to keep up with the demand for our collections and services—and the talented staff who provide those services. And as Duke prepares for a new capital campaign, I hope that the Libraries have a seat up close to the table, that the university recognizes the centrality of the Libraries to all of its campaign priorities.
But deep down, because I’ve been in the Libraries so long and feel that we’re a kind of family, a close-knit community, what I really want is for the next person to also feel that way, and to take good care of our people.
One of the great things about working in a world-class library is getting to see and touch priceless literary and historical treasures. If retiring University Librarians got to take one thing from our special collections and keep it for themselves, what would you choose?
Ha! Maybe one of the double elephant folio Audubons. (Duke has a complete set of the Birds of America.) I’d settle for one volume, but then I would be breaking up the set. I’d be happy if I could just borrow it from time to time.
After you officially step down, you’ve said you’ll be on a six-month sabbatical to pursue two of your own research projects. Tell us a little more about what you’re going to be doing.
Three years ago I traveled to the Falkland Islands or, to the Argentines, the Islas Malvinas, and I interviewed a number of people who live there. The Anglo-Argentine community has been an interest of mine since I was a graduate student. Of all the immigrant groups in Argentina, it was among the smallest in size but had a disproportionately large impact. I ended my dissertation with an epilogue about the Falklands/Malvinas War, which was happening at the time I was writing. I’m interested in following up on some of those conversations and maybe exploring that identity a bit more.
I’m also going to be helping to organize and process Ariel Dorfman’s papers. The last trip that I made anywhere before the pandemic was to Chile to box up his books and papers there and bring them here to Duke. I’ve known Ariel for many years, he’s been a close family friend. I would like to make a contribution by helping future researchers gain access to his materials. So in a way, both of these projects are a return to my roots as a researcher and a librarian.
The next time you attend a Duke sporting event, check the back of your ticket. For every ticket sold to regular season home games, Duke Athletics donates one dollar to the Duke University Libraries. It’s an arrangement that has raised over $2.1 million in unrestricted revenue over the last ten years, which we’ve used to support teaching and research across the university.
Now, thanks to the leadership of Nina King, Duke’s newest Vice President and Director of Athletics, the next $1 million in ticket sale donations will be directed toward the renovation and expansion of Lilly Library.
When you show your support for the Blue Devils, you’re not just rooting for the young men and women on the field. You’re helping us make a big play for the entire Duke community and enhancing the student experience for years to come.
“The Duke Athletics Library Fund is a perfect example of the kind of innovative thinking that makes Duke a top-ranked academic institution,” said Deborah Jakubs, the Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs. “We’re deeply gratified and honored that the Lilly Project has the support of Duke Athletics. It’s truly a gift to the entire Duke community.”
To understand why Lilly Library needs renovating, it helps to consider how old the building actually is. So let’s look back at 1927, the year the library opened its doors.
The President of the United States was Calvin Coolidge, known as “Silent Cal” for being a man of few words. (When was the last time one of those got elected?) Speaking of presidents, work had just begun on George Washington’s face, the first to be carved on Mount Rushmore.
It was the year the first transatlantic phone call was made, as well as the first transatlantic flight piloted by Charles Lindbergh in his single-engine Spirit of St. Louis. Novelist Virginia Woolf had just published her masterpiece To the Lighthouse—parts of which were possibly written at the very desk you can see today in Duke’s Rubenstein Library. Meanwhile, moviegoers flocked to see The Jazz Singer, featuring Al Jolsen in blackface, the picture that marked the end of the silent film era.
In 1927 the world was home to just over two billion people. Some 45,000 of them lived in Durham, North Carolina—compared with 320,000 today. About 8,000 registered cars made up all the traffic there was on Durham’s streets. A pound of bread cost nine cents.
Undergraduate tuition at the fledgling Duke University was $90 per year, not including room and board. That was much cheaper than the $227 charged by Vanderbilt, not to mention the Ivy League schools in the Northeast that Duke aspired to emulate, which were in the $300-400 range. It was even a bargain compared to that other university down the road in Chapel Hill ($111).
Higher education back then was not the big business it is today. In 1927, only 12 percent of 18-21 year-olds in America were matriculating towards an undergraduate or graduate degree—just over a million young men and women nationwide. They were overwhelmingly men, to be sure, but 1927 was also the year Duke Law School admitted its first woman, Miriam Cox.
Duke’s libraries were different, too. Or library, rather, because there was only one, and it would eventually be named Lilly. The Gothic West Campus was still being built. When it officially opened to students on March 14, 1927, the Chronicle student newspaper marveled that the new library on East Campus had the capacity to store 140,000 volumes. That was plenty of room to grow, since the total collection at that time was only 89,000 books and 2,000 volumes of newspapers—each of which was carried into the new building on the backs of “more than a score of negro workmen who were outfitted with specially constructed wooden crates.” According to University Treasury ledgers, those men earned an average of 26 cents per hour.
Needless to say, the world has changed immeasurably since 1927. But Lilly Library has not. On the whole, the aging edifice is still the same building the great-great-grandparents of today’s Duke students would recognize, only leakier and more neglected. That’s why this renovation is long overdue.
Earlier this fall, Deborah Jakubs, the Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs, announced that she will retire in May 2022, following nearly four decades of service at Duke University.
Jakubs, whose career at Duke began in 1983, was named University Librarian in 2005. During the last seventeen years, she has led Duke University Libraries through significant changes in the scholarly publishing environment, new trends in teaching and research, Duke’s increased emphasis on global engagement, and a broadening of the Libraries’ roles and partnerships across campus.
“The Duke Libraries are first and foremost a community of dedicated people committed to teaching, learning, and research,” said Jakubs. “I chose to spend my career at Duke thanks to the excellence of our staff, the collaborative partnerships we enjoy with the faculty, the students who come to regard our libraries as a second home, and the strong support of alumni who recall their time here with gratitude and fondness.”
The Libraries’ physical presence on campus has changed significantly during Jakubs’ tenure, including the dedication of Bostock Library and the von der Heyden Pavilion, the renovation of Perkins and Rubenstein Libraries, the construction of The Link and The Edge, and the expansion of the Library Service Center. Planning is now underway for the renovation and expansion of Lilly Library on East Campus.
“All of us at Duke are grateful for Deborah’s extraordinary service,” said Duke President Vincent E. Price. “In her time as University Librarian, she has overseen a transformation of Duke Libraries to make them more inclusive, innovative, and responsive to the needs of our students, faculty, staff, and neighbors. We can truly be proud of the Duke Libraries she leaves behind, which are more vibrant and vital than ever.”
Under Jakubs’ leadership, the Duke University Libraries have emerged as one of the top ten private research library systems in the country, recognized nationally for addressing pressing issues in scholarly communication, new forms of publications, collaborative collection building, assessment and user experience, and diversity and equity in services and recruitment.
“Deborah has led Duke Libraries through a period of remarkable growth and evolution in the role and function of university library systems,” Provost Sally Kornbluth said. “From her early efforts to expand services and resources supporting international scholarship, and throughout her tenure as University Librarian, she has ensured that Duke’s library resources and services are responsive to both user needs and new developments in the technologies and best practices for delivering scholarly support.”
During her tenure, the Libraries have prioritized cultivating an inclusive community as one of the organization’s five guiding principles and have established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council (DivE-In) to provide leadership and engage staff to advance this work.
Jakubs has been a visible and active member of the Duke community in her work with various university councils and committees, including the President’s Campaign Cabinet; the Steering Committee for the Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation; the Provost’s Committee on Rethinking Doctoral Education; the Humanities Writ Large Steering Committee; and numerous others.
Beyond Duke, Jakubs has also taken leading roles in organizations and consortia that have benefited researchers locally, regionally, nationally, and worldwide. She has chaired and served on the board of directors of the Association of Research Libraries, the Center for Research Libraries, the Open Library Foundation, and the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries. In her role as chair of the Open Library Environment (OLE) Board of Directors, she has contributed to the development of FOLIO, an open-source, community-based library services platform in collaboration with research libraries in the United States, Europe, and China. She has also served on numerous external review committees at other universities.
“Deborah has been the perfect leader for a library system in a rapidly changing world,” said Ann Q. Curry, Chairman and Chief Client Strategist at Coxe Curry and Associates and chair of the Duke Library Advisory Board. “She is both nimble and thoughtful; a builder of beautiful library spaces and a change agent for the space the library occupies in the university. She has constructed a strong, diverse staff, raising the library’s reputation nationally. And, along with all these scholarly accomplishments, she is, speaking as someone who traveled to Colombia with her, just plain fun.”
Jakubs earned her B.A. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1973; her M.A. from Stanford University in 1975; her M.L.I.S. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1981; and her Ph.D. in Latin American History from Stanford in 1986.
Her first position at Duke in 1983 was as a General Bibliographer. She was named Librarian for Latin America and Iberia in 1986 and Head of Collection Development in 1990. In 1991, in response to an international turn in teaching and research at Duke, Jakubs created the Libraries’ International and Area Studies Department. She served as head of that department for eight years before being promoted to Associate University Librarian for Collections Services in 1998, then University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs in 2005.
As her retirement approaches, the Office of the Provost and a faculty-led search committee are overseeing the search for a new University Librarian. In the meantime, Jakubs is focusing her energies on finalizing plans and fundraising for the Lilly Project, which will cap off a long chapter of expansion and renewal in the history of the Duke University Libraries for which she will be remembered.
For first-year students living on Duke University’s East Campus, Lilly Library may be their first foray into academic research. The library and its staff help them understand how to make their way through the resources available to them and prepare them for the rest of their time at Duke. But, as a vital piece of Duke for almost a century, it’s beginning to show its age.
“This much-needed renovation, which is currently in the design phase, will allow us to improve the student experience at Duke for generations, while preserving the charm and character that so many Blue Devils have always loved about Lilly Library,” said Duke University President Vincent E. Price. “We are so grateful for this generous award.”
Construction on the project was originally slated to begin in summer 2020 but was delayed by the spread of COVID-19. Library staff had already begun relocating materials, services and personnel when the pandemic forced Duke to close campus and move classes online in spring 2020.
Now that in-person classes have resumed, the need to renovate the aging structure remains as pressing as before.
“Lilly Library has been remarkably well-preserved since the Great Depression, and that’s part of the problem” said Deborah Jakubs, the Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs. “Lilly lacks most of the elements of a modern research library. Many of the library services and spaces today’s students need to succeed are available in Perkins, Bostock and Rubenstein Libraries on West Campus, but not on East.”
Lilly Library opened in 1927 as Duke University’s first library on East Campus while West Campus was being constructed. For more than four decades it served as the Woman’s College Library, but, when the Woman’s College merged with Trinity College of Arts & Sciences in 1972, the library was renamed the East Campus Library.
In 1993, a partial renovation upgraded computing facilities and increased the book stacks capacity, and the building was renamed Lilly Library in recognition of a gift from Ruth Lilly, the philanthropist and great-grandchild of pharmaceutical magnate Eli Lilly. Since then, Lilly has served as the primary library for first-year students at Duke and as their gateway to the full range of library collections and services.
The proposed renovation and expansion will increase the building’s footprint. It will have significantly more seating and offer more collaborative study spaces, an assembly space for events, a makerspace, a writing studio where students can work with tutors on their assignments, an outdoor terrace, and a warmly furnished Booklover’s Room — a modern take on a much-loved part of the historical Woman’s College Library.
The planned renovation will also update facility needs — including the heating and cooling systems, lighting, technology infrastructure, and furnishings — to meet today’s standards of safety, accessibility, usability and service.
Proposed updates will also extend to the elegant Thomas, Few, and Carpenter reading rooms. The charm and character of these iconic spaces will be preserved, but their finishes, furnishings, lighting, and technology infrastructure will be enhanced.
The Duke Endowment award brings the total funds raised to date to $27.4 million. This includes a prior $10 million combined gift from Ruth Lilly’s nieces and their families – Virginia “Ginny” Lilly Nicholas and Peter Nicholas and Irene “Renie” Lilly McCutchen and William McCutchen – as well as the Lilly Endowment, a private philanthropic foundation based in Indianapolis. Additional fundraising is required before the project can be approved for construction.
“Through his early philanthropy, we know our founder believed that libraries held a vital role in enriching campus life and helping students flourish,” said Minor Shaw, Chair of The Duke Endowment’s Board of Trustees. “Supporting this project continues an important aspect of James B. Duke’s legacy and we are proud to be part of Lilly Library’s transformation.”
Jorge Luis Borges famously said, “I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.”
In that case, a library in quarantine—locked down, devoid of people, utterly silent and inaccessible—well, that’s the opposite of paradise. But that’s how the libraries of Duke looked for much of this spring and summer.
True, we have a rich and substantial online library, including millions of e-books, e-journals, databases, streaming videos, and digitized collections. And it has been inspiring to see how much our incredible staff have been able to do, and assistance they have been able to offer, during this extended period of working from home. But there’s nothing quite like the simple pleasure of walking into a library and wandering around, wherever your curiosity may lead you.
The following pictures were taken on March 18, the day we bid farewell to our last library visitors in the spring. We have paired them with images of the same spaces taken during “normal” times, as a reminder of what a library is supposed to look like—and what we will look like again one day—a hub of activity and engagement, as well as a refuge and place of inspiration. Looking at such pictures today, it feels a lot more like paradise lost.
As Duke gears up to welcome students and faculty back to campus in the fall, we are excited to see them in the Libraries again, albeit in a more limited way, safely distanced and masked. And our entire staff looks forward to the day when it’s safe to throw the doors wide open again and welcome everyone back to paradise.