For the first time since October 2019, the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) met in person on the campus of Georgia Tech in midtown Atlanta. We worried about attendance, but 31 of our 38 member libraries were present. This meeting also marked my last as president and I was grateful that we finally could be together in person. There was a sense of joy among the deans and directors as we reconnected in person with lots of laughter and hallway conversations. The full agenda is linked here, but I will share some highlights.

  • New Member Library: For the first time on over a decade, we welcomed a new member, the University of Arkansas and their dean, Jason Battles!
  • Presentation and Discussion on work environment expectations: Skye Duckett, Chief Human Resources Officer for Georgia Tech, talked with us about evolving nature of the academic workplace. Remote work, retirements, and employee morale are uniform themes as we all emerge from pandemic operations and try to discern what is the “new normal.” She noted that there are no easy solutions and that we as leaders have to recognize we are stressed and uncertain as well. Leaders showing their vulnerability as well as empathy for their employees is a great start as we navigate these challenges together.
  • Great Tours! One of the advantages of meeting in a major city is that we have three ASERL member libraries in Atlanta. As part of our meeting we got to tour the libraries at Georgia State and Georgia Tech. At Georgia State I enjoyed getting to see their interactive wall, CURVE. Compared to other data walls I have seen, this one was rather easy to use and is popular with students for a variety of projects.Data wallThe Georgia Tech Library famously has no books (actually there are a handful that can checked out). Instead the focus is on collaborative spaces and services like the “Office of Gadgets” and the retroTECH lab. The retroTECH lab includes everything from 8-track players and manual typewriters to a computer that emulates old software. And as we rethink our service desk, I found their modular and moveable desk an interesting option.
  • Information desks

That concluded an action packed first day (that also included an ASERL Board meeting). Day two started with a great presentation from our own Mika Payden-Travers together with Elyse Zhao from Georgia State on “Library Fundraising During & After a Global Pandemic.” They talked about different ways they engaged with donors during the pandemic (virtual programs, Zoom calls) and what they felt would be effective for the long term.

Mika and Elyse

The meeting concluded with our annual business meeting where we acknowledge our colleagues who are retiring. Among that group is my former boss at Duke, Deborah Jakubs, who I have known since 1983. Since I started attending ASERL after being appointed dean in 2015, 21 of our 38 member libraries have seen changes in leadership, most from retirements. This is an ongoing challenge and opportunity for ASERL. While we lose long valued experience, we gain new viewpoints and perspectives. I am grateful for the honor of serving as president of ASERL and look forward to continued participation until I join the list of retirees!