Cover to cover: Dean Goetsch looks to the future of Hale Library

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

Adopting and adapting techniques for the 21st century is no simple task, especially when the public views your domain in antiquated terms. This is the dilemma, or rather duty, that Lori Goetsch, dean of libraries, has excelled in for more than 35 years.

Serving the Kansas State family since 2004 in her high-visibility role, Goetsch is overseeing the repair and leading the cutting-edge innovations of Hale Library after a fire damaged the building back in May.

“You get some preparation for that [fire] with library education, in terms of disaster recovery, and we had a wonderful disaster plan we put into place that was well written and understood by the staff,” Goetsch said. “We had leaks in the library before, but nobody ever gets trained for having 80 percent of your facility destroyed and is going to be [our biggest challenge] for the next 2 to 3 years.”

Goetsch said she knew she wanted to be a librarian when she was in elementary school, inspired specifically by her librarian Ms. Mead who fed her “voracious” reading habit. However, it was not until she was in her twenties that she committed to turning her passion for literature into a career.

Her favorite story, which she came across in her many years of reading, still lingers. “Middlemarch” by George Eliot, she said, is a tale of a strong Victorian work ethic that reflected her upbringing and inspired her to embody those values today.

“There is no substitution for the human interface where we provide a level of training knowledge, education and expertise through librarians and our staff that are value added,” Goetsch said. “They are teachers, researchers [and] constant learners — all which makes this an interesting profession. And I always want to remind the people that it is the people, the librarians are what makes the library.”

At the moment, the library system has had to operate in buildings across campus instead of being centralized in one home location, forcing indirect forms of communication.

Krista Everhart, student employee and junior in secondary education, said Goetsch has made efforts to keep people together through weekly meetings.

“She is such a figurehead and so strong and with her leadership skills — can I be her one day?” Everhart said. “She is a strong woman, and I look up to her as much as any of my other bosses.”

Prior to the fire on May 22, the first floor was already slated to undergo a massive renovation, which has been the subject of much speculation while the rest of the building is being repaired. Tentatively, the first floor will be opened in the fall of 2019 at the earliest.

In that case, Goetsch said the first floor will become a place of innovation, discovery and collaboration complete with 18 new group study rooms in the building. This partner space will be critical, Goetsch said, since it will also be available to the Writing Center, tutoring services, Powercat Financial and other services that host special office hours.

On the first floor, students will also find resources with a new two-story innovation lab that will have audio/video recording, digital media production, a small maker-space, virtual reality and artificial intelligence applications.

There is also the considerations of how the library may evolve alongside the K-State 2025 plans to become recognized as one of the nation’s top 50 public research universities, Goetsch said.

“There is a need for the library as a physical place; it provides a study space and a cultural space, which is still very necessary,” Goetsch said. “Our role and the impact that technology has had on libraries is extraordinary, and I never could have predicted the impact that technology has had on accessing information.”

The common fallacy of the written word being replaced with digital type is something that outside observers often ask those working in libraries. As the topic of e-readers and audio books are brought up, from the dean on down to the student ambassadors to the library, it is not so much the medium as opposed to the message that must be considered.

“E-readers, audio and podcasts are great for people to access information,” Adam Carr, senior in human resource management, said. “As a library, our goal should not be to gatekeep information and instead disseminate information for all people. Libraries need to embrace a electronic life, not for the fear of getting rid of physical books, but to be cognizant that is not the only way for people to process or gain information.”

Goetsch stressed that libraries have the express goal of improving literacy and critical thinking skills and are a trusted outlet for a factual, verifiable and credible information landscape. With the stigma against media outlets for “fake news,” Everhart said information is so accessible with cell phones and computers.

“How to process and find information that’s accurate is very important,” Everhart said. “The library is a great tool to find resources, library-related or not, with a plethora of knowledge to be shared with others.”