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Shaping the 21st-Century Library

Media Inquiries
Ryan Scarpino
University Communications & Marketing

Carnegie Mellon University Libraries(opens in new window) is re-envisioning the future of how an academic library operates and facilitates the educational, research and discovery ambitions of its students, faculty and staff. That reimagining is being led by Keith Webster(opens in new window), who on April 6 was installed as the inaugural Helen and Henry Posner, Jr. Dean's Chair for the University Libraries.

CMU leaders, deans, faculty, staff, students and special guests gathered in person and virtually to commemorate this landmark moment for University Libraries. The endowment for the dean's chair, which was made possible as part of a $16 million grant last year from the Posner Foundation of Pittsburgh(opens in new window), will provide resources to advance strategic priorities, meet pressing needs and strengthen the CMU Libraries collections.

"We are so grateful for the Posner family's generosity, and this is a recognition of progress at CMU Libraries over many years," Webster said in his remarks at the installation. "It also is a vote of confidence in the entire team at the University Libraries. I thank you all for everything you do to advance the university's academic mission, every day."

Webster speaks at a podium

Webster delivers remarks during the ceremony.

Webster was appointed dean of University Libraries in 2013, with an additional appointment of director of emerging and integrative media initiatives in 2015. He is a Chartered Fellow and an Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, and was formerly the dean of libraries and university librarian at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Under Dean Webster's leadership, University Libraries has incorporated innovative practices like artificial intelligence and machine learning into its research and archival work. Using experimental and interdisciplinary approaches, he and his team have positioned Carnegie Mellon at the forefront of creating a 21st-century library. This raises the question, what is a 21st-century library?

"We know from the history of libraries through the ages that those which have survived have evolved to meet the changing demands of their users. In other words, the library of the 21st century needs to adapt to survive, as did libraries of prior generations," Webster said. "What will our library of the 21st century be? The answer lies with all of you. It will be the library that our faculty, staff, students and other supporters want it to be. We commit to doing so in a way that weaves our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion(opens in new window) into the fabric of our library."

Carnegie Mellon President Farnam Jahanian presents Keith Webster, the inaugural Helen and Henry Posner, Jr. Dean's Chair for the University Libraries, with a model chair.
"Through his unique interdisciplinary vision, Keith has reimagined the future of our University Libraries." — Farnam Jahanian

Those who honored Webster included CMU President Farnam Jahanian(opens in new window); Provost and Chief Academic Officer James H. Garrett Jr.(opens in new window); Rebecca Doerge(opens in new window), the Glen de Vries Dean of the Mellon College of Science; and Vice Chair of the CMU Board of Trustees Anne Molloy(opens in new window), who is also a trustee of the Posner Foundation of Pittsburgh.

"Through his unique interdisciplinary vision, Keith has reimagined the future of our University Libraries," Jahanian said. "He has championed efforts in open access and open science initiatives, while helping students navigate the world of scholarly communication. And he has preserved and shared the university's legacy through rare artifacts and archives — making our collections truly world-class. I am inspired by and grateful for his leadership, his passion and his relentless commitment to innovation."

A group photo

Keith Webster sits in his ceremonial chair with, from left: Anne Marie Toccket, the executive director of the Posner Foundation of Pittsburgh; Henry Posner III, chairman of Railroad Development Corporation (RDC); Anne Molloy, vice chair of the CMU Board of Trustees; and Ida Posner, vice president, strategic planning at RDC.

Molloy expressed immense gratitude for the nearly 45-year relationship between the Posner family and Carnegie Mellon University Libraries, spotlighting the outstanding job it has done of preserving the Posner family's collection of rare books and artifacts, while making it accessible to scholars, students and the general public. She commended Webster for his achievements in modernizing the University Libraries system and echoed the excitement about the future.

"Dean Webster's plan to transform the libraries to advance 21st-century scholarship is well underway, including how library space is used, how to support the research life cycle from grant application to sharing research results and how to steward rare and historical collections that are in diverse, new formats," Molloy said. "We are thrilled that Keith is the inaugural recipient of the dean's chair, and the Posner Foundation is glad to support him in strengthening, growing and transforming University Libraries. We wish him many years of continued success."

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