After seeing through Hale fire renovations, Lori Goetsch plans to retire

Lori Goetsch, dean of libraries, speaks to members of the press in the Great Room on the third floor of Hale Library on May 17, 2019. (Archive Photo by Dené Dryden | Collegian Media Group)

Lori Goetsch, dean of libraries, will retire at the end of the 2020-2021 school year, after Hale Library renovations are completed.

Goetsch began working with libraries during her time at a social services organization in Chicago after receiving a bachelor’s degree in English literature. Later, she worked for a graduate assistantship at a library school.

“Working in libraries combines my love for books, collecting and making information available to people,” Goetsch said.

When a position as dean of libraries opened at Kansas State, Goetsch was hopeful she’d get the job. After a few interviews on campus, Goetsch was hired in 2004, the same year as her 50th birthday.

“On her birthday we called her the Queen of Oz,” Laurel Littrell, director of library planning and assessment, said.

Littrell said Goetsch’s sense of humor involving the “The Wizard of Oz” themed birthday gave the staff a chance to get to know her.

“She’s a great boss — lots of fun, very generous … she listens, is supportive and willing to talk,” Littrell said.

Along with her ability to have fun, Littrell attested to Goetsch’s handling of the Hale renovations following the 2018 fire that took it offline for months.

“When something like that happens, it’s devastating … She rose to the occasion and enjoyed the opportunity to do renovations bigger than planned,” Littrell said.

Dean of K-State Libraries, Lori Goetsch, addressed a crowd from the Great Room balcony at the Back to School Harry Potter Feast in 2014.
Dean of K-State Libraries, Lori Goetsch, addressed a crowd from the Great Room balcony at the Back to School Harry Potter Feast in 2014. (Archive Photo | Collegian Media Group)

Other people Goetsch works with agreed.

“[Goetsch’s] done an amazing job helping us stay centered and grounded,” Jason Coleman, department head of library user services, said. “She’s been steady to keep our eyes on the goal [of finishing Hale renovations] … The new Hale — it’s going to be amazing.”

After the fire, Goetsch planned the renovations, met with architects and kept staff informed throughout the process.

At first, Goetsch said the renovations were overwhelming. When she entered the building two days after the fire and saw the damage, books and carpets soaked or in standing water, she thought the staff was in trouble.

Coleman said the decisions Goetsch made regarding Hale renovations, both by herself and with other leaders, were vital to completing the renovations on time.

So far, Goetsch has kept renovation plans on track to finish in January 2021, despite the extenuating circumstances caused by the pandemic.

“The transition of Hale Library has been challenging, the workforce is scattered with COVID-19,” Goetsch said.

The new Hale is designed to use technology to meet the needs of all students, staff and faculty. It features a new innovation center with 3D printers, sound booths and laser cutters, as well as quiet zones and active areas.

“I can’t emphasize enough how smart the library design is. It focuses on the students,” Coleman said.

Right now, Goetsch is busy meeting with staff and the community over Zoom. After the renovations are complete, she is excited to see students back inside Hale.

Besides her role in the renovations, Goetsch established the K-State library student ambassadors, the University Library Committee, Center for the Advancement of Digital Scholarship and an undergraduate research journal and award.

Goetsch also played a key role in keeping the library’s technology up to date, Coleman said. Goetsch focuses on big picture issues and looks for consensus from staff members when possible, encouraging input from all corners of campus to ensure the libraries are useful for all.

“I am definitely going to miss interacting with people,” Goetsch said. “I will miss the students who use Hale, the staff. … It is the people I am going to miss most.”

Goetsch plans to stay in Manhattan with her husband, where she hopes to keep in touch with the K-State libraries, volunteer and watch football games.

“We are going to miss her a lot, the next dean has a lot to live up to,” Littrell said.