By George Mauzy
New Ohio University Dean of Libraries Scott Seaman began work at Ohio University on April 1 after 17 years at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He oversees library operations on all Ohio University campuses as well as the Hwa-Wei Lee Library Annex on Columbus Road in Athens.
One month into his tenure, the Ohio native sat down with Outlook to share why he returned to the state and what he has planned for Ohio University Libraries. He offered some insights into short- and long-term goals.
What made this job attractive to you?
Ohio University and its library were a really good fit for me because it was a culture that I knew. When I interviewed, I sensed the campus and its leadership had a strong interest in the library and view it as a vital resource. That was important to me, because that is not the case at all universities. I was impressed that our deans and faculty knew what was going on in the library, and that was a really good sign.
How do libraries fit into the new University System of Ohio?
The plan doesn't mention libraries specifically, but state university libraries have been sharing resources for about 15 years through OhioLINK (Ohio Library Information Network), so in many ways we have been ahead of the curve.
What are your most important priorities as dean?
To increase our librarians' salaries, improve our fundraising efforts and continue with renovations to make Alden Library more suitable to the special needs of the entire campus.
On average, our librarians' salaries are much lower than those at the other 123 institutions comprising the Association of Research Libraries. The discrepancy in pay makes it hard to attract and retain talented librarians. For the most part, librarians who have left went to work for other ARL members.
What about development?
I will be very active in fundraising and I am excited to get started. (Increased donations) would allow us to become less dependent on university funding and also allow us to fund our facility renovations. We could also use the money to improve or add to our already impressive special collections. Endowed library positions are another possibility with increased fundraising.
What further renovations do you envision for Alden Library?
Continuing renovations to Alden is another must if we are to adapt to the new ways people use the library as a resource for network information. This has completely revolutionized librarianship. Although the new student and faculty commons areas are great, we need quality, dedicated space for all of our constituent groups, particularly graduate students.
Do you have any plans for the library annex on Columbus Road?
It needs to be expanded to accommodate displaced Alden materials during future renovations or construction projects. The current 10,000-square-foot facility has 35-foot high shelves with more than one million books, and it is packed to the gills with important research materials.
How do you see regional campus libraries fitting into your plans?
I want the regional campus libraries to complement Alden Library's offerings and not just duplicate them. I want them to have unique collections and programming that well serve their students. For instance, I recently visited the Chillicothe campus library and it had a rare book collection on religious tolerance, which is unique in the state. That is the kind of thing I want to see more of. Although I haven't visited them all, I have been told and have a sense that they are in touch with their students and have been doing a great job of satisfying the needs of their campuses.
How have you been getting acclimated on campus?
After beginning work on April 1, I immediately tried to get to know what was going on at Alden Library by visiting with the employees and students all over the building. Then I began meeting one-on-one with deans and vice presidents to find out what their needs are. Lately I've been attending as many university and campus events as possible in an attempt to meet as many students, faculty, staff and alumni as I can. For instance, I attended the Voinovich Center alumni luncheon in Columbus on Wednesday and met many interesting alumni. As far as events go, if my schedule allows it, I will be there.
What is your long-range goal for Alden Library?
I hope to see Alden Library as a nationally renowned research library, and to some degree it already is. That is one of the reasons we are a member of ARL, which is reserved for distinguished research libraries at research institutions. However, I would like to elevate our profile even higher by making it an even greater intellectual resource. The way we do that is by hiring and retaining the best librarians in the field, attracting additional major collections and making sure the library satisfies the increasing needs of its diverse users.