WU names new university librarian to help further develop system

Bailey Winston | Contributing Reporter

Denise Stephens will assume the position of Washington University librarian and vice provost, effective July 1. She will take the place of Jeffrey Trzeciak who left Washington University last July.

For this position, Stephens will manage the existing libraries, the construction of Olin Library and the libraries’ special collections.

Dean of the Sam Fox School Carmon Colangelo was in charge of the 13-person committee who recommended Stephens to Provost Holden Thorp due to her past experience at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Colangelo said Stephens had a number of qualities that made her a good fit for the position.

“Everyone was looking for an experienced leader. Someone who works very well with faculty and staff to build consensus,” Colangelo said. “The staff really wanted someone who respects them and their expertise and would try to build a strong team.”

Stephens described the library as an “important crossroads” on campus for cultivation of knowledge and student experience. In her new position, Stephens hopes to build on the utility and effectiveness of the library system, working within the framework that already exists at the University.

“Serving students and faculty is at the top of our priority list,” Stephens said. “From what I understand, Wash. U. has a very good standing in this regard, and I believe there’s a positive foundation to work with.”

At UCSB, Stephens said she believed her greatest strength was her ability to get specific and comprehensive advice on what was working well and on how the university library system could be improved.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of user assessment, such as surveys, focus groups and planning efforts, that really bring the students and faculty to the table in order to understand how they depend on the library for services and information,” Stephens said.

Stephens also directed an $80 million extension plan for the libraries at UCSB, and she is looking forward to leading a similar project at Washington University.

“I have a very exciting vision of what the Olin Library will become, as it will be solidified as a venue for important gatherings, exhibits and programs around some of its unique special connections and resources,” Stephens said.

Colangelo expressed the desire for an increased staff culture to be developed at the University and said he feels Stephens is the right person to lead efforts toward this end.

“I hope [Stephens] works to build a stronger staff culture, where staff members truly feel as if they’re a part of the process, and I think she’ll accomplish that easily,” Colangelo said.