Larry Alford accepted an appointment at a top university research library in Toronto.
Dean of University Libraries Larry Alford, credited by some for revamping the libraries’ resources over the past six years, has accepted an appointment as the chief librarian at the University of Toronto.
The appointment lands Alford at one of the Top 3 university research libraries in North America, according to the Association of Research Libraries’ 2004-05 membership index ranking.
Alford came to Temple from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he held several other titles over a 30-year period, including deputy university librarian.
“When Larry arrived, we had experienced a transition,” said Carol Lang, the assistant university librarian for organizational development and planning. “Larry has transformed things in a number of ways.”
While the number of volumes and other resources in the libraries’ collections has grown, the libraries have also undergone physical changes. The Samuel L. Paley Library renovated its special collections and received additions, such as armchairs, breakout rooms and the Library Media Center.
In 2007, Alford became the first Temple Libraries administrator to hold the title of dean.
“[Alford] is very much a team leader,” Lang said. “I think it’s fair to say that leaders can have a synergistic or catalytic effect on a team – I would put Larry in that category.”
Associate University Librarian Steven Bell said Alford is a data-driven administrator, who ensures progress is being made but is also able to make “gut decisions.”
“One of the reasons I took the job is because I knew of his reputation as a great librarian and great administrator,” Bell said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to come here to Temple and to learn more about some of the things I was not well-versed on.”
Since Alford began managing the libraries, the university improved from 95th to 43rd in collection expenditures among 126 research libraries in North America surveyed by the ARL.
But higher licensing costs in the last 20 years imposed by publishers and organizations have caused a “serious problem” for libraries’ budgets, said Alford, who also serves as the chair for the Online Computer Library Center, a nonprofit that provides affordable resources to more than 72,000 libraries in 171 countries.
“President [Ann Weaver]Hart has been very committed to supporting the libraries,” Alford said. “Even despite some critical times, the libraries here have done well, thanks to her.”
Head of Access Services Penelope Myers, an undergraduate student during the construction of Paley, said Alford helped reconstruct “a very shabby 1960s building.”
“He has brought a lot of coherent thought to everything that we have been doing,” Myers added.
In order to generate new ideas to renovate the Main Campus library, Alford sought feedback from the Faculty Senate Library Committee and established the Student Library Advisory Board. The former committees helped design a “more inviting” library, as more than 10,000 visitors use its services on a daily basis, Alford said.
Librarian Kristina De Voe of the reference and instructional services department said she saw Alford’s passion for the students and how he wanted the library to be a central place on Main Campus.
In Fall 2009, Alford worked with faculty, mainly Reference and Instructional Services Department Head Jenifer Baldwin, he said, to develop a new General Education program that instructed all freshmen on research information skills.
De Voe, who instructs students in some of the research classes, said the increase in online databases was “simply amazing.” There are presently 649 databases available on a wide range of subjects.
“Information literacy at Temple has become a stronger presence in the courses,” De Voe said. “I want to be able to teach them how to find information on their own, so that they become life-long learners.”
Alford said one of the things he is most proud of is a survey that showed an “extraordinary increase” in the level of overall satisfaction from the students and faculty who used the libraries between 2006 and 2009.
“That really dramatic increase is probably a testament to the work that so many people here have done to help improve library information services for students and faculty,” Alford said. “I think my job is to try to find the resources and remove the barriers for really smart people to do great things. I think that’s the job of any leader.”
Alford will begin his appointment no later than Aug. 1 at the University of Toronto. The Temple Libraries staff will meet with Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Richard Englert next Tuesday to discuss plans regarding a possible search committee and recruitment for a new librarian dean.
Connor Showalter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.