April 23, 2018

Susan Gibbons | Movers & Shakers 2005

Bridge Builder


There are many chasms in our profession: among different libraries and between public services and technology staff, users and librarians, and research and practice. Susan Gibbons bridges all of them.

As director of digital library initiatives at the University of Rochester River Campus Libraries, Gibbons was an early adopter of MIT’s DSpace technology and worked with the provost to develop the university’s institutional repository. Through her efforts, the university became one of the eight institutions in the original DSpace Federation.

But for Gibbons the real challenge wasn’t the technology but convincing faculty to participate. Aided by an Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant, she studied faculty research practices and identified faculty members most likely to contribute their research. She also identified services the library could provide to make it easier for them to contribute, like digitization and metadata enhancement.

Based on Gibbons’s findings, the university built two new pages for its DSpace implementation. The Researcher page is a showcase for a faculty member’s DSpace content, while Research Tools is used by faculty members to launch and edit their Researcher pages and to search DSpace and other content.

One of Gibbons’s proudest achievements is her development of CoURse Resources, a relational database of major library resources and course offerings that allows librarians to generate a page of links quickly to the best print and electronic (and human) library resources for any course. Once a page is posted, subject specialists invite comment from the professor of the course. This adds increased dialog, and collaboration, between faculty and librarians.

When early usability testing indicated that most students didn’t know the library had subject specialists for each discipline, Gibbons redesigned the course page template to include the name and contact information for the specialist and a link to the library’s online chat service. She says students have been uniformly enthusiastic about the pages and “are coming to the libraries requesting assistance from subject specialists by name.”

Gibbons says she has enjoyed the challenge of “reengineering librarianship in a Google world.” Now that she’s become assistant dean for public services, she’s eager to take on bridging the chasm between information technology and public services.

Vicki Burns, head of reference at Rochester’s Rush Rhees Library, says Gibbons is already doing that. “She understands the changing role of libraries in academic communities. She’s an outstanding communicator who catches the imagination of her audience and opens new possibilities for them. Most compelling is the way she brings staff and others along with her. She envisions what can be done and makes it happen.”



Current Position Assistant Dean for Public Services & Collection Development, River Campus Libraries, University of Rochester, NY

Degrees M.A. in History and MLS, Indiana University, both 1995; MBA, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2002

Coauthor E-Book Functionality: What Libraries and Their Patrons Want and Expect from Electronic Books (ALA, 2003)

Family Ties As the daughter of a librarian, she’s helped out in libraries since she was eight