Dean Lori Goetsch carries legacy of female leadership in K-State’s libraries

Lori Goetsch, dean of Hale Library, poses for a portrait near her desk. (Bill Zhu | Collegian Media Group)

With an expansive system of libraries and support systems, it’s hard to imagine a time without Hale Library.

But before there was a Hale — or even before Fairchild Hall, which was first named the Library and Agricultural Science Hall —K-State’s president would assign various faculty members to oversee the library in addition to their teaching responsibilities, at least for the first full 31 years of the university’s existence.

Julia Pearce, class of 1890, courtesy of Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.

That all changed in September 1894, when Julia R. Pearce became Kansas State University’s first full-time librarian. This included an appointment to the college faculty, which made her the first female faculty member at K-State.

Since then, there have been 16 other heads, directors or deans of the K-State Libraries, the most recent of which is Dean Lori Goetsch.

“I didn’t start out in libraries thinking I would be a dean of libraries,” Goetsch said. “I started out because I really liked the service side of libraries.”

Goetsch began her career as a service librarian working at a reference desk, much like Pearce, who worked as an assistant librarian for two years before being appointed head librarian.

Goetsch tried out some positions where she held more responsibility and really enjoyed the administrative side of the work. In 2004, she became dean of libraries at K-State.

“The more I got into it, the more I found that I liked it, that it was suited for me and for my interests and for my skill set,” Goetsch said.

Goetsch acts as the chief administrative officer of the K-State Libraries. Not only does she work with facilities and budget administration, she also deals with human resources and strategic planning for library programs coordinated by the faculty.

Leah Russell, sophomore in landscape design, has been an ambassador for the K-State Libraries for two years. Dean Goetsch acts as an advisor to the student ambassador program and often attends their monthly meetings. Russell referred to Goetsch as “the mom of the group,” always kind and caring, finding ways to incorporate diversity and bring in new students to the libraries.

“She plays a huge role in a lot of the decision making and just keeping the library itself unified as a whole,” Russell said.

Goetsch said she found her home at K-State and looks forward to seeing what the future has in store for her at the university and beyond.

“I love being at K-State. I don’t see myself going anywhere else for the remainder of my career,” Goetsch said. “My next step will be a step into the next phase of my life.”

Hale Library is also looking to take a monumental step into the next phase of its life.

“We’ve gone through a lot of changes,” Goetsch said. “The whole publishing and information environment has changed. Everything’s becoming so much more electronic, and students are coming here with their own devices.”

According to a brief history of K-State Libraries provided by the Morse Department of Special Collections, as the college has grown over time, the library has expanded to meet the ever-changing needs of the students and faculty.

“We want to make sure that what we’re doing as a library is what students need,” Laurel Littrell, planning and assessment librarian for K-State Libraries, said.

Brice Hobrock, dean of libraries from 1982 to 2004, was present for the introduction of Hale Library to K-State. It was built for a print collection, which is what the university had at the time, but Hobrock quickly realized the need to do something with newer technology. His only limit was the lack of budget.

“It’s changed a lot in the emphasis on online resources rather than print, and it’s better because you can search things easily and find a lot more variety,” Littrell said.

According to Litrell, they’ve started taking books and shelving out of the libraries. Hobrock’s time here was still very much based in print, but Goetsch’s time is emphasizing a more online presence, which means moving books to the annex.

“It’s a different and exciting environment for the library to figure out how we deliver services to meet the students where they are,” Goetsch said.

The K-State Libraries Student Ambassador program allows current undergraduate and graduate-level students to have a say in what goes on in the libraries and help make progress for a more innovative future.

“The libraries can work on developing even more on their social media platforms and making their accounts more approachable for what they have to offer,” said Brooke Sullivan, sophomore in biology and member of the K-State Libraries Student Ambassadors.

The K-State Libraries have, in fact, put more focus on social media outreach and engagement, as well as classroom instruction. Librarians reach out to faculty to teach students in their classes how to use library resources and how to distinguish what resources are good for students and what are not good for students.

“We can all search Google, but you need to know what’s accurate and valid and reliable and what’s not,” Goetsch said.

The first floor of Hale Library is being completely renovated this summer to accommodate the need for more technology-based resources. There will be numerous group study spaces that’ll provide a high-tech environment where students can work collaboratively.

“A lot of things we’re trying to respond to is what students are going to need when they get out of school and into work life, replicating some of the environments you would find when you go out to work,” Goetsch said.

The renovation will also include a new innovation lab, which will have a combination of makerspace and digital media production technology. Students will be able to utilize virtual reality technology, 3D printing capability and a one-button studio for video production.