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Sara Williams heads new VCU Libraries department focused on academic outreach

October 25, 2013

Sara Williams assumed a new position as Head of Academic Outreach this fall semester. She will shape a program of creative academic outreach to the Monroe Park Campus. In addition, she will lead a  group of faculty librarians to expand their connections to their disciplines and students and faculty. Working collaboratively with faculty colleagues, she will ensure that VCU Libraries is at the center of new and evolving modes of pedagogy and scholarship.

Academic librarians for many years have not been limited to sitting behind their desks waiting for researchers to come to them with questions. VCU has a tradition of activist librarians--embedded in schools and programs to which they are assigned, serving on university and research committees, and working closely with faculty to identify their discipline-specific research and teaching needs.This new position is a step-up from previous work.

Williams brings a strong foundation of education and experience to it. Her most recent professional experience includes four years as Assistant Director of Public Services at the Carrier Library at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. Prior to that, she served in several leadership and liaison roles at libraries at the University of New Orleans and Tulane University. She began her professional career at the University of Georgia. Ms. Williams holds the B.A. in English literature from The University of Alabama and the M.L.S. from Louisiana State University.

Explaining her thinking about this new role on campus, Williams said: 

"Academic outreach describes both the naturally evolving process and the deliberate extension of library services beyond traditional collections, tools and communities. Today's effective librarians respond creatively and dynamically to our users' needs for information and data. We continually experiment, monitor and assess new tools, skills and collaborations to help researchers find, analyze, evaluate, share, interpret and use documentation and evidence.

"One of the most exciting parts of this user-centered approach will be in applying our already excellent information skills to new types and formats of materials: everything from data sets to artifacts to published and unpublished research from non-western areas and minority cultures.

"Outreach is all about understanding, and staying on top of, the changing responsibilities of researchers, learners, and anyone who wants to be best-informed in a world of global information."

In addition to the appointment of Williams, the new initiative also will be led by Bettina Peacemaker, a librarian who has taken on many outreach responsibilities, first as a social sciences and business librarian, and later as Assistant Head for Research and Instructional Services. She has been named Assistant Head of Academic Outreach. Ms. Peacemaker will continue her deep relationships as a discipline-specific liaison and build on relationships of many years' making. Previous to her 10 years service at VCU, she worked at the University of Maryland University College. Ms. Peacemaker holds the B.A from the University of Mary Washington and the M.L.S. from the University of Maryland.

* * *

This new department head will provide leadership for outreach and engagement with upper-level undergraduate and graduate students and faculty throughout departments, school, colleges and interdisciplinary programs. She will work to: 

  • Create and implement a program for creative academic outreach, with responsibilities for academic outreach librarians to the Monroe Park campus to undergraduate and graduate students and their faculty in humanities, arts, business, sciences, engineering, social sciences and public affairs.
  • Take strategic responsibility for the development, promotion and delivery of research support, enabling all University members and external partners to locate, access and organize information using the most appropriate tools.
  • Collaborate with teaching faculty to develop course content.
  • Paticipate in assessing and designing student learning outcomes.
  • Lead outreach programs to the campus and appropriate local communities. 

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VCU Libraries

James Branch Cabell Library Monroe Park Campus
901 Park Ave., Box 842033
Richmond, VA 23284-2033
Toll-free: (844) 352-7399
(804) 828-1111
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Tompkins-McCaw Library MCV Campus
509 N. 12th St., Box 980582
Richmond, VA 23298-0582
Toll-free: (844) 352-7399
(804) 828-0636

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