February 16, 2018

Mark Phillips | Movers & Shakers 2012 — Tech Leaders

Online Architect

Mark Phillips Movers & Shakers 2012


Assistant Dean for Digital Libraries
University of North Texas Libraries, Denton

MLS, University of North Texas, Denton, 2004

A few years back, Phillips began a project to photograph each courthouse in each of the 254 Texas county seats (he has 89 to go). He’s already completed similar photo missions in Oklahoma and Kansas


Photo ©Sean McGinty Photography LLC

Mark Phillips, assistant dean for digital libraries at the University of North Texas (UNT), Denton, shatters the computer nerd stereotype quite well.

He and his fiancée hike and kayak. He plays string bass in Arkansas’s Fort Smith Symphony. He’s an avid photographer, with extensive online galleries. But at work, Phillips has proven every bit the trendsetting technological master.

An accomplished systems architect, Phillips redesigned and rebuilt the university’s digital library (digital.library.unt.edu). It’s now a vast repository of collections from various UNT libraries, schools, and departments, and the sprawling Portal to Texas History (texashistory.unt.edu) is also based on this system. In 2011, Phillips worked on upgrades and explored avenues for discovery and use of the materials now housed online.

The site currently boasts 60,211 visible items comprising some 3.7 million files. That total continues to grow as material is added from a host of contributors. “We didn’t start with, ‘We need the cooperation of everybody,’ ” Phillips says. “We started with, ‘Who wants to work with us?’ It picked up speed from there. It has kind of grown organically.”

Since the digital library redesign began with a $1 million Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant in 2008, UNT Libraries has successfully added funding every year to help Phillips’s team expand its work. Last summer, UNT received an $800,000 IMLS grant, allowing the project to evolve. Phillips’s success has made him a sought-after speaker at other universities. “He has the ability to understand libraries in the present and envision what they will look like in the future,” says Cathy Hartman, UNT’s associate dean of libraries.