Category Archives: Feature Articles

The Librarian Is In: A Conversation with Joseph Salem, Duke’s New University Librarian

Photos by Janelle Hutchinson, Duke University Libraries

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.

Salem chats with library staff members at a welcome reception on his first day at Duke.

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.

Salem and Dracine Hodges, Associate University Librarian for Technical Services, who served as Interim University Librarian over the summer.

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.

Salem in his office with (left to right) Jocelyn Castro, Library Administration Staff Assistant; Emily Daly, Interim Associate University Librarian for Research and Public Services; and Naomi Nelson, Associate University Librarian and Director of the Rubenstein Library.

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.

“I’m a very future-oriented person,” says Salem, “and I find that libraries are a wonderful way of building something for the future.”

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.

“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.”

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.


Exit Interview: 10 Questions for Deborah Jakubs

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!

Deborah Jakubs in 1993 (left), when she served as head of the newly created International and Area Studies Department, and today (right).

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.

Images of Perkins Library circa 2005, prior to the Perkins Project renovations.

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.

The von der Heyden Pavilion under construction in 2005 (left) and today.

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.

The Rubenstein Library under renovation in 2013 (left) and after renovation in 2015.

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.

Perkins Library under renovation in 2005 (left), and the freshly completed Bostock Library and Perkins-Bostock connector, 2006.

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.

Rooting for Lilly? That’s the Ticket

Wallace Wade Stadium. Image by Nat LeDonne, Duke Athletics.

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.”

What Was It Like When Lilly Was Built?

Lilly Library and other East Campus buildings under construction, July 1926.

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.

Historical and cultural touchstones of 1927: Charles Lindbergh made the first transatlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis; Al Jolsen appeared in blackface in “The Jazz Singer,” marking an end to the silent film era; and Virginia Woolf published her masterpiece “To the Lighthouse.”

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).

The 1927 Duke University football team.

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.

Closing the Book: University Librarian Deborah Jakubs to Retire in 2022

Deborah Jakubs arrived at Duke University Libraries in 1983. She was appointed University Librarian in 2005.

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.”

Clockwise from far left: Deborah Jakubs speaking at the re-opening of the Rubenstein Library, 2015; with Duke Trustee Paula Burger, David Ferriero, and Duke President Richard H. Brodhead, 2013; with the Rubenstein Library Renovation Team, 2013; leading a trip to Chile and Argentina with the Duke Alumni Association, 2012; with Ariel Dorfman, Angélica Malinarich, and Josefina Tiryakian, 1993.

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.

Jakubs in 1995 with Richard Ekman of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (left) and Peter Lange (center), Professor of Political Science and Duke University Provost (1999-2014).

“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.

$10M Grant Brings Lilly Library Transformation Closer

Lilly Library, Fall 2020. Photo by Bill Snead/University Communications.

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.

Now, in support of the first significant renovation of the library since it was built, the Duke University Libraries have received a $10 million grant from The Duke Endowment, a private foundation based in Charlotte, N.C.

“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.”

Scene from the first day of classes (FDOC) in Lilly Library’s Thomas Reading Room on Duke’s East Campus, Fall 2021.

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.

Rendering of Booklover's Room
A rendering of the Booklover’s Room, a comfy spot for casual reading.

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.”

Endnote: Before/After

Gothic Reading Room Before the Pandemic and After
The Gothic Reading Room in Rubenstein Library in normal times (left), and on March 18, 2020 (right).

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.


Von der Heyden Pavilion Before and After
The cafe inside the von der Heyden Pavilion at Perkins Library.

 

Rubenstein Reading Room before and after
The Rubenstein Library Reading Room

 

Library service desk Perkins Library before and after
Perkins Library, first floor

 

Chairs outside Perkins Library before and after
Outdoor seating area, Perkins Library

 

More Perkins Library study areas before and after
Study area, Perkins Library, first floor

 

Holsti Anderson Room before and after
The Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library

 

More study spaces in Perkins Library before and after
Study area, Perkins Library, first floor

 

Yet more study areas, Perkins Library, before and after
Study area, Perkins Library, first floor

 

Perkins Bostock bridge outside, before and after
Outside Perkins and Bostock Libraries

How To: Make a Mini-Zine

Hand holding up zine
Our Summer Bucket List Quaran-zine, a pocket-sized zine to help you get organized and excited about a summer spent primarily at home.

With so much time at home these last few months—and unknown months to come—many of us have been searching for inspiration and activities within easy reach. Allow us to recommend starting your own zine.

What’s a zine? Short for fanzine, a zine is a short homemade publication, usually printed or reproduced on a photocopier, with limited circulation and often about a specialized topic. You could think of zines as “underground” publications that tend to have a niche audience. They often serve as vehicles for ideas, personal expression, and art.

But zines are also rich primary sources that can tell us a lot about the time, place, and culture that produced them. Because they are self-published, zines allow marginalized voices to express themselves beyond the hierarchical and commodified world of mainstream media. They also let authors take control of the process of publishing.

The Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, part of the Rubenstein Library, has been collecting zines created by women, girls, and LGBTQ authors for years. Their collection includes over 6,000 zines, most of them dating from the 1990s to the early 2000s. They are used widely by Duke instructors and visiting researchers. You could say we’ve been big zinesters for some time.

Open zine showing quotations
Print, Fold, Ponder: a zine of inspirational quotations.

In May, just as Duke students were finishing up their online classes and final papers, we put together a little zine anthology of quotations we’ve been thinking about during this difficult time. The title says it all: Print, Fold, Ponder: A Wee Zine of Wise Words We Need Now. It’s a little collection of quotes about optimism, hope, leisure—words that inspire us to look on the bright side of what we’re going through—but also about the seriousness of the situation we’re in.

Encouraged by the positive response we received, we decided to try it again. This time we offered a Summer 2020 Bucket List Quaran-zine to help people organize the things they want to read, listen to, watch, make, learn, or otherwise accomplish during this most unusual summer.

Print our Summer 2020 Bucket List Quaranzine and start checking off all those things you want to do!

Both zines are easy to make and require only a single sheet of paper. A printer is handy if you have one, but not required. You can always just hand-copy what you see on the screen and make it your own.

Download and make our mini-zine of inspirational quotations, Print, Fold, Ponder: A Wee Zine of Wise Words We Need Now.

Or download and make our Summer 2020 Bucket List Quaran-zine and start checking off your planned accomplishments for the days and months ahead.

Highlights from Our Student Survey

Here in the Libraries, we never stop trying to improve our game. To help us serve our students and faculty better, we conduct periodic surveys to understand how they view our services, spaces, and materials, and how satisfied they are with their overall library experience.

Back in January (Ah, remember January? Innocent, unquarantined January…), we sent out a brief survey to approximately 4,000 Duke students. More than half of them responded, evenly split between undergraduates and graduate students. Their answers were both gratifying (“Everyone I’ve interacted with at the Library has been absolutely wonderful”) and candid (“Improve signage to reduce the chaotic feel of navigating the library”).

Student Survey Graph
One way we measure how students feel about the library is to ask about their agreement with the statement: “For me, the library is a welcoming place.”

In a recent blog post, our Assessment and User Experience department unpacked some of the more interesting findings. Over the next few months, we will be analyzing the survey data and ultimately use it to make service enhancements, expenditures, and other library improvements. Feedback is what helps the Libraries grow, and the more input we get, the better we’ll be able to renovate, rethink, and refine our work—even during times of crisis.

Read the survey highlights and see what steps we’re already taking to improve.

FAQ: How We’re Planning to Reopen the Libraries

People wear face masks while on the Bryan Center Plaza on Duke’s West Campus. Image by Meghan Mendenhall, University Communications.

Ever since COVID-19 pandemic began, members of the Duke community have been asking us when the Libraries will reopen, to what extent, and what level of access and services we will be able to offer when we do.

If you’re reading this, you have probably seen some of the updates from President Price about the university’s plans for the upcoming fall semester. Because our work in the Libraries supports and facilitates so many aspects of teaching and learning at Duke, we wanted to share some important information about our phased plan for returning to normal operations, which was developed in conjunction with university-wide planning efforts.

We have been maintaining and updating a detailed FAQ on our website that answers many of the biggest questions. But it’s worth calling out a few of the more important points here.

First of all, the safety of library staff and patrons is our highest priority. Library staff will follow all state and university public health guidelines, including maintaining social distance, wearing masks, handwashing frequently, sanitizing and disinfecting workspaces and equipment, and self-monitoring for symptoms. In addition, we will be quarantining books and other collection materials for 48 hours between hand-offs to minimize the risk of viral spread through touched surfaces.

Bins of library books
Bins of returned library books wait in quarantine before being reshelved.

Ramping up library services for the fall semester has been a gradual process, with an initial focus on scanning and digitization for course and research support, followed by a plan to get physical items into the hands of our users.

In July, we implemented a contactless “Library Takeout Service” for books and other physical materials at Perkins Library on West Campus and Lilly Library on East Campus. To begin with, this service was only available to Duke faculty and graduate students, but it will be expanded to other groups of library users as the fall semester gets under way.

To comply with state and university public health guidance, and for the safety of library staff and patrons, we are implementing these initial services with the fewest possible library staff on-site.

Of course, while parts of our buildings remain closed for the time being, we continue to provide consulting, resources, and services online, as we have done since the present difficulties started.

We hope to continue to move forward and expand current service offerings throughout the fall and spring. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we ramp back up to a “new normal” of library services and operations, and we look forward to welcoming more patrons back into our buildings as soon as it’s safe to do so.

See the FAQ on our website about resuming library services.