Q&A with new university librarian Gerald Beasley

Gerald Beasley, the Carl A. Kroch University Librarian.

Gerald Beasley became Cornell’s 12th Carl A. Kroch University Librarian Aug. 1.

What are you most looking forward to about working at Cornell?

I’m most looking forward to working with a great set of colleagues. Everything I’ve heard tells me I’m going to be working with an outstanding team.

CUL is quite rightly regarded as one of the greatest research libraries of the world – and it has global impact, which is very important to me. It has outstanding services and a reach that goes across the world, and I love that.

What do you want Cornellians to know about you?

I work mainly on the value system that I think Cornell already possesses. I believe that information is a great social good, and needs to be open and available to all, and preserved not only for this generation but future generations as well.

All libraries provide opportunities for personal transformation as well as social transformation. Any individual can come into a library – virtually or physically – and they can find out something they never expected to find out.

I believe as well that libraries have the potential for democratic, citizen-based social transformation through the spread of knowledge.

What would you want students and faculty to know about the library?

That it’s here for them. That’s the main thing – we really want to see academic outcomes that are made more enjoyable by the library experience. We should be not just good but outrageously good. Students and faculty should think, “Great, I’ve got a couple of hours – I want to spend it in the library or connected to the library.” We want researchers to have an opportunity to collaborate with the library at every stage of their research life cycle, from conception to dissemination.

Is there anything you’ve learned from working in Canada and the U.K. that you hope to introduce here to benefit Cornell?

[Dissemination of] information and knowledge is a truly global event. I don’t think that will be new to Cornell, but inevitably I have an orientation toward the international aspect of knowledge and information sharing.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing academic libraries?

Our biggest challenge is people overestimating their own capacity to find information and use it wisely. Academic libraries are there to help, but people need to realize they need help.

I always say, a lot of institutions across the world are suffering from erosion of trust, but libraries, deservedly, have maintained that trust. It’s a precious gift, one we need to understand and use wisely. Universities would do well to think of libraries as one of their main calling cards.

Another challenge is to accept risk as part of a changing world. People like libraries because they have a stability and a constancy and a sense of preservation, but libraries also need to be liked and even loved for being innovative, taking risks, being adventurous and moving into new areas.

What do you do in your spare time? 

I love that Ithaca has a strong connection to the history of silent movies. I love silent movies, and I’m really looking forward to exploring the silent movie tradition of Ithaca.

Melanie Lefkowitz is staff writer, editor and social media coordinator for Cornell University Library.

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