Van Gemert named to lead UW-Madison libraries

Jan. 22, 2013

by Susannah Brooks

Ed Van Gemert, who has served as interim director of the General Library System at the University of Wisconsin–Madison since December of 2011, has been selected to lead the system on a permanent basis. His title will be Vice Provost for Libraries and University Librarian.

Photo: Ed Van Gemert

Van Gemert

“UW–Madison’s libraries play a critical role in ensuring the success of the university’s teaching and research mission,” says Provost Paul M. DeLuca Jr. “Within an exceptionally strong candidate pool, Ed’s character and abilities stood out, particularly his collaborations across the UW System and advancement of the libraries’ national profile.”

Van Gemert served as deputy director and associate director for public services in the General Library System before assuming interim leadership. He also held the interim role in 2006, while former librarian Ken Frazier served as interim UW–Madison chief information officer. Van Gemert is an active member of the Association of Research Libraries, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation and the Council of Wisconsin Libraries. He also chairs the Strategic Advisory Board of the HathiTrust, a partnership of major research institutions and libraries working to preserve and ensure access to the record of human knowledge. His research interests include organizational management and digital library development.

“I’m sincerely honored to accept this position, particularly at a time of great change in the library world and higher education,” says Van Gemert. “I view these challenges with a layered approach. Internally, a campus libraries strategic plan, including a complete review of our master facilities plan, will help us make sure that services, instruction and programming are aligned with modern-day needs. Having an opportunity to examine how and where we will use our resources in the future is exciting.”

“Ed’s character and abilities stood out, particularly his collaborations across the UW System and advancement of the libraries’ national profile.”

Paul M. DeLuca Jr.

Van Gemert notes that UW–Madison is a leader in digitizing its legacy print collections. As the university broadens its national and international profile by providing access to its holdings, faculty and students on this campus will increasingly be able to access material from other collections as well — including rare and specialized material that may not be accessible in person.

“The third piece of the puzzle involves seeking out innovative partnerships that further the success of changing instructional environments in higher education,” says Van Gemert. “The partnership that we’ve used to create the WisCEL spaces, for example, needs to be connected to our facilities review. That’s where libraries can contribute to the university’s competitive edge.”

A 14-member search and screen committee, chaired by classics professor William Aylward, recommended the finalists to the provost. Four candidates, all from major North American institutions, participated in a series of campus visits and public presentations.

In his now-permanent role, Van Gemert will lead a system of 16 libraries in the General Library System, with approximately 225 full time employees. The GLS leads and coordinates decentralized library services on campus, providing technical infrastructure, support for acquisitions and integration of campus library services. The physical collections of the GLS are among the largest in the country, with more than eight million volumes.

Van Gemert’s appointment is effective Jan. 18. He succeeds Ken Frazier, who retired following 19 years at the helm of the library system.