Comings & Goings at the UConn Library – Collections & Discovery

The pandemic has reshaped the work environment in unprecedented ways, forcing organizations to adapt to a new way of working. The UConn Library is no different. Since March of 2020 we have shifted access to collections, increased online outreach, created new programming, and found new ways of working with each other and our communities. We have also seen an incredible shift in staffing. We have been fortunate enough to welcome several new staff members, said good luck to others moving to other institutions, wished many a happy retirement, and said goodbye to a dear colleague. In the second of this three part series, we will look at the shifts in staffing and service to our areas of work and hope you will join us celebrating the people, past and present, of the UConn Library. If you missed the first post, it was regarding our Library Administration area.

Collections & Discovery

Connecting you to the world of resources is at the heart of what our Collections & Discovery area does. The units within the area focus on digital imaging, conservation, collections acquisitions and discovery, and building our archives and special collections. 

In September 2020 we were fortunate enough to hire Roxanne Peck to lead the area as Associate University Librarian for Collections & Discovery. Roxanne has over 25 years of experience in academic libraries and came to us from the University of California San Diego where she was the program director for the Content Acquisition and Resource Sharing (CARS) Department. Roxanne’s talents served the Library well for the year and a half she worked for the Library, including helping us lead the forward progress on the Future of Journals Project and the significant challenge of finding and implementing a more sustainable model for providing access to resources. Roxanne will be leaving in July to become the Assistant Director of the Hoover Institution Library and Archives.

Other staff changes in the area include the retirement of Fred Rick in July 2020. Fred began at the UConn Library in 1985 after coming to UConn as a graduate student in Political Science. In the 34 years Fred worked for the Library, he worked at the same desk (lovingly dubbed Old Sturbridge Village by Fred himself), ensuring our physical materials were properly cared for, labeled, and bound. So if you ever found a book on the shelves, you can thank Rick. 

The maintenance of our physical collections did not stay static long. This past January 2022, we were fortunate to add Ellen Pikora to our team. Ellen has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh, and was both a library assistant at the Cromwell Belden Library and the Manchester Public Library when she was hired. 

The building of our collections, both physical and digital, is an important piece of this area’s goals, and at the heart of Michael Rodriguez’s work. Michal began his career at the UConn Library as Electronic Resources Librarian in February 2016. Michael led transformative initiatives at UConn and was equally active in local, regional, and national levels. The Library promoted Michael in 2019 to a newly created position, Collections Strategist. In that role he led efforts to make our scholarly resources more responsive to changing budgets and user needs, elevate the impact and diversity of our collections, and deepen our partnership with regional and national initiatives. Michael was also recently highlighted in UConn Today for his work on writing scores of Wikipedia articles, bringing long overdue attention to women, African Americans, and other historical figures in UConn and Connecticut history. Michael left the UConn Library in May 2022 to become Content and Scholarly Communication Strategist at LYRASIS.

Cover of Guiding Principles and Pathways for IDEA in Collections

And a conversation about our collections is never complete without talking about our nationally recognized Archives & Special Collections. Our archives team documents the human experience through manuscripts, letters, photographs, maps, and so much more to help students, scholars, and the public learn from the past and understand the present. The archives team has been led by Rebecca Parmer since 2018 and in those four years she became an indispensable member of the UConn Library community through her leadership, vision and accomplishments. She was a strong advocate for ASC’s instructional program, guiding efforts to develop and implement modular educational frameworks that brought excitement and enthusiasm for integrating primary source collections into the classroom. She was also deeply involved with Library initiatives including being a member of the UConn Library’s Strategic Framework Steering Committee and then as a member and co-chair of the inaugural Implementation Team. She also co-chaired the IDEA in Collections Working Group, along with Michael Rodriguez and Rhonda Kauffman, to develop definitions, guiding principles, and recommended pathways for building inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA) into all aspects of library collections management and development. Rebecca left the Library in May 2022 to join the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library as the director of their research library. 

Comings & Goings at UConn Library – Library Administration

The pandemic has reshaped the work environment in unprecedented ways, forcing organizations to adapt to a new way of working. The UConn Library is no different. Since March of 2020 we have shifted access to collections, increased online outreach, created new programming, and found new ways of working with each other and our communities. We have also seen an incredible shift in staffing. We have been fortunate enough to welcome several new staff members, said good luck to others moving to other institutions, wished many a happy retirement, and said goodbye to a dear colleague. In the first of this three part series, we will look at the shifts in staffing and service to our areas of work and hope you will join us celebrating the people, past and present, of the UConn Library. 

Library Administration / Office of the Dean 

At the core of all UConn Library daily work and strategic initiatives, the Library Administration area provides critical support in financial management, digital infrastructure, communications, assessment, maintenance, and security across our facilities. 

Homer Babbidge Library North Entrance
A view inside the North Entrance of the Homer Babbidge Library.

The security of our facilities is an important function of Library Administration. Primarily responsible for the 500,000 square feet across seven floors of the Homer Babbidge Library, our buildings and grounds crew have a lot of physical ground to cover. They also have a lot of time to cover. Open more than 4,800 hours a year, including 24/7 hours during finals, they are responsible to keep the average of 1.3 million visitors safe. 

Since 2020, there have been several shifts in staffing among our facilities and security crew. In July 2020, Mike Slowik retired after working at UConn for 21 years, starting in UITS as a computer operator up until May of 2000, when he left UConn to start his own business as a custom cabinet maker and carpenter. We drew Mike back to the University in 2012 as a buildings and grounds officer where he remained through his career. You can now find him on the beach in South Carolina spoiling himself and his grandkids. 

In July 2021, Joseph Clark, who had been part of the buildings and grounds crew for three years, said goodbye to Connecticut and hello to new adventures in Michigan. We also wished Bill Haalck a happy retirement most recently in April 2022. Bill worked as security for HBL for 22 years, beginning when we used to staff the exit desk. Yes, there was a time when we checked your bags leaving the building. Students probably saw Bill the most, having the afternoon/evening shifts when the “real” studying begins. Bill is looking forward to upping his cycling game in retirement. 

With all these retirements we don’t want you to worry – we are in great hands! We have been able to hire two stellar buildings and grounds crew members over the last two years. In November 2021 we hired Ivelisse Acevedo and Tracy Bidwell. Ivelisse drew the late shift until 2am so you late-nighters will recognize her. Ivelisse has degrees in Communications and Multimedia and Technology, as well as training for CPR, First Aid, conflict resolution, and holds a black belt in Taekwondo. Tracy also started on the night shift, and has a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education as well as Master’s Degrees in Pastoral Care and Intercultural Studies/Teaching English as a Foreign Language. We are currently hiring for another staff member to join the night crew so we can keep the doors open for all those late night hours this fall semester. 

In March of 2021, the steady hands that comprised over 70 years of combined service between Ed Chang and Hilda Drabek in our financial services unit came to an end. Hilda worked at the Library in many different capacities for more than 36 years, starting in what was known as the technical services unit at a time without computers but with typewriters, and worked throughout her career on implementing critical resources including the first automated integrated library system. Ed started his UConn career in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources where he worked for 11 years before joining the Library. In his 24 years at the Library, it seemed everyone in any financial position at UConn knew Ed. Both Hilda and Ed led us through many changes, including the complete overhaul of UConn’s financial system to Kuali. Their retirements left the intrepid team of Ryan Marsalisi and newly hired Nadeen Atiq to carry on. Nadeen Atiq was hired in July 2020 where she had previously worked as an assistant in the Southern Connecticut State University Biology Department. They expertly navigated our financial needs and were soon joined by our new Head of Financial Services Ashley Sandy in June 2021. A proud alumnus of UConn, Ashley earned both her BS and MBA, with a concentration in Finance and Management, from the UConn School of Business. Prior to joining the Library, she worked for the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR).

Also providing a necessary base for all that we do is our digital infrastructure support team. As the pandemic began, Jason Anderson started his first day online. Literally, day one was the first day we went home for the pandemic. Jason’s role as Web Services Coordinator was expertly timed as our online services have increased dramatically over the last two years. Shortly after, Jason was joined by Sarah Goldstein, in March 2021. Sarah came to UConn from Mount Holyoke College Library to lead our Digital Infrastructure Services unit. In the short time she was with us, she worked to build the necessary base for our digital services, as well as access to our collections. Sarah left the Library in February of 2022 to become the LYRASIS Partner Success Leader on their Palace Project.

CT Digital Archive: Connect, Preserve Share

In addition to providing a solid base to keep the Library running, the area is also actively involved in our strategic goals, engaging in partnerships and initiatives around UConn’s community of learners and external partners. One of those initiatives is the Digital Preservation Repository Program (DPRP), which serves the digital preservation needs of the University and the people of the State of Connecticut through Connecticut Digital Archive (CTDA) and the State Records Preservation Service. Mike Kemezis served as our repository manager for four years, and was instrumental in developing the CTDA membership programs and content standards along with many other parts of the program. He has become internationally recognized in the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) and digital repository communities, especially relating to copyright, and in diversity, and inclusion. In January 2022 Mike left the UConn Library to join Connecticut Humanities as the Programs and Project Manager. We are in the process of hiring for this position so keep an eye out for an announcement soon.

There was also a change in the Office of the Dean. Kristen Jones, Executive Assistant to Dean Langley, started working at the UConn Library in January 2013 and left the position this past February to join Brown University as Executive Assistant to the Provost. In March, we hired Angela Frati who came to the Library from the UConn College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources, where she worked in the Department of Animal Science as an Educational Program Assistant. Her extensive experience in all aspects of business administration and operations support is a great fit for the busy Dean’s office.  

Thanks to the staff that keep the Library running smoothly! There are more changes to share, so keep an eye out next week for the second of our three part Comings and Goings series – the teams that make up our Collections & Discovery area.

Dedication of the Barbara Mitchell Memorial Garden

portrait image of Barbara Mitchell

Current and former UConn Library staff gathered on Friday, June 17th to celebrate the life of our colleague Barbara Mitchell by dedicating a memorial garden in her honor.

Barbara was a valued and respected member of the UConn Library staff for over 42 years, and passed away on April 19, 2022, a few months before her retirement. It’s impossible to work somewhere for that long and not be a part of the fabric of the institution. On what would have been her 69th birthday, we welcomed former colleagues, her family, and friends to share in our sadness and celebrate the life she lived. We heard stories about her kindness, fierce loyalty, work ethic, and her love of mentoring students and helping the public.

Image of memorial rock which reads:
Planted in memory of our colleague and friend Barbara Ann Mitchell. June 17, 1953 - April 19, 2022. UConn Library, September 4, 1979 - April 19, 2022.
Memorial rock in our new east entrance garden.

The garden, located at the east entrance of the Homer Babbidge Library, is focused around a special variety of lily called the Barbara Mitchell lily, a beautiful flower and a beautiful tribute. Introduced in 1984, the blooms are characterized as excellent performing flowers that are rich in pink with ruffled edges. They are known to survive harsh conditions that other plants cannot, which makes them a favorite among gardeners. Barbara was amused that this flower existed, and we think she would enjoy being described in a similar fashion – hearty, a few ruffled edges, well-known for her work ethic, and a favorite among colleagues.

Image of the Barbara Mitchell lily in bloom
A bloom of the Barbara Mitchell lily at the east entrance of Homer Babbidge Library.

Barbara was born in Putnam, CT to the late Lloyd, Sr. and Grace Mitchell. She was a graduate of Woodstock Academy (1971) and UConn’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (1977). She started her career at the Library in September 1979 and led our Access Services at the time of her passing. In the over 42 years of service she touched the lives of so many of us, becoming a valued colleague and mentor to students. We will miss the perfectly placed sense of humor she brought to her work, conversations about the Huskies and New York Giants, music trivia, and her love of Halloween. 

We welcome you to take a moment when you are on campus to swing by often as it continues to grow into a beautiful space.