Academic libraries are transforming to meet the needs of 21st-century scholarship, and Virginia Tech is a leader in reimagining the role of a research library to fuel innovation and creativity.

Through the University Libraries expert services and technology-rich spaces, Hokies explore and create virtual worlds, print 3D models to test theoretical hypotheses, and transform numerical data into vibrantly visual depictions of world challenges.

Dean Tyler Walters, who holds a Ph.D. in managerial leadership in the information professions, has led the University Libraries through organizational and structural change to provide unique services in such areas as emerging technology, data services, research impact, open access and publishing, and digital libraries.

During his presentation “Academic Libraries: How do we put it all together, become agile, and adapt” at the Charleston Conference in Charleston, South Carolina, Walters discussed his perspectives on librarianship as well as working with such tools as finances, human resources, organizational culture and values, technology, and university policy to enhance a library’s agility.

“Libraries support the full knowledge production process of concept, idea, skills, technologies, and products,” said Walters. “The way we do this is changing rapidly. We need to be flexible with our expertise and resources and to orient our mindset on the future and where the organization needs to go rather than the current environment. Our goal is to develop the new perspectives and practices that we need to have in place to better serve our community. Setting that tone with employees in the organization is imperative for success.”

Walters said that external forces, like the changing landscape of learning and research, are the impetus for much-needed, but not always easy, change.

“Distress comes from external forces that stimulate changes in practices and beliefs. During the change process, leaders facilitate conversations and help maintain respect and civility within the organization,” said Walters. “As a leader, it’s our job to live in a space that is two to four years away. We help our employees see this world with us and understand their role in the process.”

When referencing human resources, Walters explained that in addition to traditional librarians, professionals, such as computer scientists, data analysts, graphic designers, and research specialists, play important roles in today’s and tomorrow’s libraries.

“It takes a village of professionals. We will have success because we build a village of professionals who think outside of what our norms have traditionally been. Good leaders hire for what they are trying to achieve in the next three years and focus on the goals,” said Walters. “It’s about how we achieve our future.”

His key advice to the presentation audience was to keep a positive attitude. “If you say you can’t implement positive change, you won’t,” said Walters. “Be stubborn and find a way to use the tools at your disposal. Be open to opportunities.”

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