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University Librarian Elaine Westbrooks to depart UNC

Elaine Westbrooks
Elaine Westbrooks, University librarian and vice provost for University Libraries. Photo by Jon Gardiner, courtesy of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Elaine Westbrooks, vice provost for University Libraries and University librarian, will depart from her role, the University announced in a campus-wide email Friday. Her last day at UNC will be on May 31.

After leaving UNC, Westbrooks will be the Carl A. Kroch University Librarian at Cornell University.

Westbrooks has been in her role at the University since 2017, leading a system of 10 libraries and a team of hundred of library employees. She has spearheaded University Libraries’ efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion, the announcement said.

Under Westbrooks’ leadership in May 2021, University Libraries launched its Reckoning Initiative, a layered approach to advancing diversity, inclusion and antiracism work within the library system.

Other University Libraries projects under Westbrooks’ leadership include “On the Books: Jim Crow and Algorithms of Resistance,” which digitizes every North Carolina law passed during the Jim Crow era, and “On These Grounds: Slavery and the University,” which aims to reconstruct the lived experiences of enslaved individuals at and around the University.

She also appointed the first librarian for inclusive excellence and helped the Carolina Academic Library Associates program become a better space for students from underrepresented communities.

“In all her work, Elaine ensures that libraries are a vital and central part of research, learning, teaching and discovery,” Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Chris Clemens said in the Friday email.

Westbrooks’ departure comes as University Libraries has faced drastic budget cuts — $2 million this fiscal year and $3 million next fiscal year. As a result of these cuts, the libraries made plans to reduce the purchase of books and multimedia items and cancel subscription journals, packages and databases. Two million of University Libraries’ annual budget was recently restored through facilities and administrative costs.

As the University seeks to fill the vice provost for University Libraries and University librarian role, María Estorino, current director of Wilson Library and associate University librarian for special collections, will hold the position in the interim.

The role’s search committee will be chaired by Gary Marchionini, dean of the School of Information and Library Science.


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