Elaine Westbrooks named University librarian and vice provost

Elaine L. Westbrooks will take office as the University librarian and vice provost for University Libraries during the coming school year. Photo taken by Jon Gardiner and courtesy of UNC.

Elaine Westbrooks was announced as the new University librarian and vice provost for University Libraries by the UNC Board of Trustees on July 10. 

The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native will replace Sarah Michalak, who retired in December 2016. Westbrooks will take over from interim University librarian Carol Hunter on Oct. 1. 

Westbrooks' 19-year experience included large state schools such as the University of Michigan, where the campus is more than four times the size of UNC's. She served as associate dean of libraries at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, held several positions in technical services at Cornell University Libraries and worked as a digital research and Latin American Cataloger at the University of Pittsburgh.

Westbrooks said that “southern hospitality” stood out to her during her experience in the selection process.

“I’m a northerner, I’ve been one all my life,” Westbrooks said. “I felt like people wanted me to be successful. At times it didn’t even feel like an interview.”

Westbrooks said that many people have driven her towards her career goals. The youngest of six children, Westbrooks said she admires her parents, who worked hard to send her and her siblings to college.

“They inspire me on a regular basis,” Westbrooks said. “I have benefited so much from having great parents who invested in me and continue to support what I want to do.”

Westbrooks said she had several mentors who have helped her in her career, but one that prepared her the most for her new position was Joan Giesecke, the former University of Nebraska-Lincoln dean of libraries.

“I swear I’m the luckiest person in the world,” Westbrooks said. “Joan actually hired me at the University of Nebraska and she was really inspirational. She taught me how to be a manager and how to be a leader.”

Westbrooks does not want her experience in higher education to cloud her judgment at UNC.

“I don’t want to become complacent,” Westbrooks said. “I don’t want to assume that the success I had at Michigan, I just have to duplicate the work and then I’ll be successful at the University of North Carolina. I don’t believe that at all. I have to be a leader, I have to have vision, and I have to set an example for the library and I have to represent Carolina.”

Westbrooks has a few goals in mind for when she assumes her new role, but said she's grateful to have an amazing staff and services at UNC.

“What I would first like to do is a listening tour,” Westbrooks said. “I believe there are so many opportunities to engage with stakeholders like the students, staff and faculty, but also to connect deeply with parts of the campus that are engaged in research, scholarship, learning, and teaching.”

Kevin Guskiewicz, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and chairman of the selection committee which appointed Westbrooks, stated in an email that Westbrooks was chosen not only for her experience.

“We were also impressed with Elaine's emphasis on staff development,” Guskiewicz said. “Her interest and expertise in international initiatives will help expand Carolina's global footprint and better prepare our students for careers in an ever-changing global economy.”

Carol Hunter, current interim University librarian since Michalak’s departure, said Westbrooks will serve UNC quite well.

“She is an author, she has in-depth experience in university libraries,” Hunter said. “She is marvelous, bright, and creative. She has energy and ideas that will carry us far.”



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